The Family journal parents guide 2014 can be downloaded by clicking on the link.
The greatest gift you can give a child is to teach them to value and believe in themselves. If they believe in themselves they will believe they deserve good things to happen to them and they will make better and safer choices in life.
“Whether you believe you will succeed or fail you will”. Children need to be empowered to understand that they have a choice about how they think and then how they choose to behave. We cannot change the things that life throws at us and we cannot help our feelings, but we can choose how we behave bearing in mind our actions have effects followed by consequences or rewards.
Children naturally model those around them and it is therefore important to be aware of the models that exist in their environment. You may not always be conscious of it, but as a parent you are providing them with a constant model to copy and so are other adults and children around them.
The values that are instilled in children also come from the models in their environment and having good values is key to children making safe and positive choices on a daily basis.
Perhaps the hardest thing as a parent is getting into the mind of your child and understanding how they really think. Getting to know them on a level beyond the day-to-day physicality of caring for their well-being. The Dot Com family journal and the Getting to Know You Journals are tools designed to create special one-on-one time with a child so you can discover more about how they feel and think, who they are modelling and hopefully guide them towards the role-models and values that will help them to make their best of their lives.
Values are the fundamental beliefs that we hold about what is important …freedom, democracy, kindness, honesty, integrity …are all values and it is vital that your children really understand the fundamental beliefs that those around them hold dear. Often individuals allow themselves to be lead into doing things that they feel ashamed of afterwards simply because they have not taken time to think about what is really important to them and their belief systems. If we look at people who have lead fundamental changes in the world and a huge success of their lives, they are usually people like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela with a clear sense of what really matters. It is so important for children to work out what really matters to them.
Using the Dot Com Family Journal
Please remember the journal belongs to the child. They have the right to decide what they write inside, what pen they use and when and how they share the information. The sense of ownership and taking responsibility for this piece of work is truly important. In schools, adults are instructed not to ‘mark’ the journal and the same rule goes for home.
It is also vitally important that they get the sense that working on this journal together is important to you. It is important to you to understand and respect what they think. It is also ok for you to gently challenge or encourage their thinking, but it is still up to them to decide what they write.
The idea behind the contract in the family journal underpins the child’s belief that you are taking their feelings, thoughts and beliefs seriously and will make time for it.
What we value we make time for
While it is important for all the adults to share their feelings, thoughts and values it is also important the the child decides their beliefs and values for themselves.
The journal will create time too for discussing some of the very important issues in life that we perhaps take for granted they understand, such as ‘what is love’? Would someone who truly loved and valued us want to hurt us or make us do something against our will or against the law? Such discussions will help children to form positive friendships and relationships as they grow. Research shows that those who are part of a subculture of violence also have values. Children will come across these unsafe and negative values and need to be certain of positive values so they can make the safest choices.
It is difficult to identify the distinctive values of the subculture of violence, but those involved in the life style indicate that members evaluate each other in terms of their conforming to a macho life-style which emphasises such things as:
- Leading an exciting life
- Achieving status
- Protecting one’s honour
That is why questions such as what is love, honour and courage are in the journal to give parents a chance to present a balanced view.
The Helping Hand
This is the opportunity for the child to draw round their hand and identify the five people on their safety network who they can turn to if in trouble. It is important that a number of people are on the hand so that the child has options on where to seek advice and a range of people to go to in case they feel they cannot tell someone about a particular problem. Children are encouraged to choose any adults at home for the thumb and then find 4 adults outside of the home for the remaining fingers.
It is vital for children to identify the safety network that exists in the community through the emergency services. It is important for children to learn that the job of the police, fire and ambulance service is to keep people safe. If people break the law then they have to be arrested so we can all be safe.
It is critical that children are not afraid of the emergency services because if they are lost or in trouble they need to be able to ask for help and not feel afraid to do so as this could endanger their lives in a serious situation.
Early Warning Signs (‘Uh-oh’ Signs)
This is a child-friendly way of teaching children to listen to their early warning signs or their own body’s signs of danger. When we don’t feel safe our body tells us by giving us butterflies in our tummy or making us sweat. It is our adrenalin kicking in and preparing us for fight or flight. It is important that children learn to listen to these signs and if anyone or any situation awakens these, they need to tell someone on their ‘helping hand’ network that they do not feel safe and decide what to do next.
It is better to teach children to listen to their early warning signs with all people and situations than to teach them to be afraid of strangers. What is a stranger? People who hurt children are experts in befriending children and gaining their trust. It is also important to help children describe what feeling safe feels like as this helps them identify when feelings change and they may be in danger.
Children can learn about safe and unsafe secrets. A surprise could be a safe secret because it is usually time-limited, but a secret that gives you early warning signs is not a secret that is safe to keep. Secrets can cause children a great deal of distress and it is important that they have a strategy for dealing with them.
Humour can be used to cause a great deal of misery and can disguise passive aggression which can be very hurtful to children. The Protective Behaviours network has had great input into the Dot Com journals and they have a great phrase which is wonderful for children to learn and that is:
If it’s not funny and fun for all, then the chances are it is at somebody else’s expense and that person could be you next time.
Risking on purpose
It is important that children are allowed to take risks, push the boundaries and lead a fun and adventurous life. However, it is also important that they understand when they are choosing to risk on purpose and can distinguish this from ‘risky behaviour’ that can harm them. These are important conversations to have.
The two main themes of Protective Behaviours are very helpful for children to learn and are as follows:
Theme 1: We all have the right to feel safe (implicit in this is that other people have a right to feel safe with us).
Theme 2: We can talk with someone about anything, even if it feels awful or small.
If children take on board these 2 principles they are likely to make safer choices in their lives for themselves and the people around them.
Another important message for children to learn is that we all make mistakes, and what is important is that we learn from them and do what we can to make amends. It is good to share some of our own mistakes and what we learned from them.
The best way to help a child aim for success is to teach them that there is no such thing as failure – there are only results.
What is important for children to learn is how to put themselves in a positive and resourceful state of mind. Feelings of failure are not helpful to our state of mind, so if they can learn to see actions and results it will be more helpful to their state of mind. A child that learns that if the result is not what they want, then they can try again and modify the approach is a child that is likely to succeed in achieving a goal. This attitude is consistent with the strategy of persistence in the Protective Behaviours process
True success only comes with practice and commitment.
Within the journals the subject of feelings is explored and children are helped to understand that feelings are simply feelings and we make choices about our behaviour . Also, our thinking can help us to make safer choices for ourselves and other people. There are no right or wrong feelings, it is only our actions that have results and these may be safe or unsafe.
Something that children find empowering is the Protective Behaviours message that nobody can ‘make’ us feel anything. We simply feel and can learn to think and choose safe actions. It might be that we feel a certain way when someone says or does something, but with practise we can chose to change that. The power lies with us and not with the other person.
We can because we think we can.
In relation to feelings it is important for children to understand the link between their mind and their body. In Protective Behaviours the idea of feelings being simply feelings, behaviour being a choice with an effect and thinking being able to influence both captures this.
We can use our body to change our feelings. Think of how someone looks when they are feeling depressed. They usually have rounded shoulders, their head is lowered, their eyes are cast down, they often tuck their arms around their body. If we feel depressed and we want to change the feeling, we can start by putting our head up, taking deep breaths, looking up and pulling our shoulders back. The physical actions immediately start to affect our state of mind.
We need always to be mindful of the internal conversations we have with ourselves that create our state of mind. If we are feeling depressed what is the conversation that you are having with yourself to feel that way? What are you telling yourself? When you feel happy – what do you tell yourself?
When children feel a lack of confidence they can think of a certain conversation they can have with themselves that helps them feel empowered. They can learn to walk as if they are feeling confident. What does a confident person walk like? You could practise confident walking with them to help them feel more positive even if they think a situation might be difficult.
I hope this explains some of the thinking behind the Family Journal and the Getting To Know You Journals which are designed to help children develop a sense of self-belief and values and to help parents, carers and mentors to open the gates to communication with children about some of the most difficult and sensitive issues.
As the parents of twins, my husband and I took great comfort in this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which we found in a book called Unlimited Power by the life coach Anthony Robbins.
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Here’s to a safer world alongside your great success and the great success of your children!