Wellbeing and your daughter
I read an interview with Dr Michael Carr-Gregg on the weekend (SMH, 18/19 Feb 2017, When your darling daughter isn’t - O’Brien) and was inspired to further explore his advice to parents of adolescent girls.
Dr Carr-Gregg is a renowned psychologist at the Centre for Adolescent Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, founder of Canteen the support service for young people suffering from cancer and has written several books on parenting. Michael has spoken at Abbotsleigh on several occasions and his presentations have been a tremendous success with our girls, staff and parents.
In the article Dr Carr-Gregg states that the majority of young girls have few issues during adolescence but, around 30 per cent can find life difficult. This is true but that doesn’t mean that as parents we don’t need to do anything for the 70 per cent. After all, our aim as parents is to enhance the wellbeing, resilience and potential of all our children.
A highlighted point in the article is to “pick your battles”. I totally agree with this. We could look at it as “Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it is all small stuff” ( Carlson). This book should be compulsory reading for every adult and young person. If your daughter’s bedroom is untidy, close the door. Sure we need a basic level of hygiene but beyond that, messiness is annoying to parents but it is not life threatening for your child. Helping children see that “order” helps with time management is a work in progress but let’s not make it a war.
As a school psychologist I have spoken to many frustrated parents who are despairing over issues such as the messy bedroom. Putting it in perspective, if this is the worst problem your daughter is exhibiting, things are going very well. Think about the big worries, mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse or disengagement.
Instead focus on the positives. What is going well in your daughter’s life? The strengths and passions she has, the islands of competence, the things that get her up in the mornings and put a smile on her face. Celebrate and enjoy these with your daughter. Please bear in mind she doesn’t have to be the best at these activities. She just needs to enjoy them and find her flow when she is participating in the activity… and it is her activity.
Sometimes as parents we tend to over-focus on the negatives. Things that are going wrong. Of course there are some deficits that need remediation or intervention whether they be health, learning or behaviour oriented, as these problems can interfere in a child’s ability to flourish. However, as parents, we need to keep in check the in-built instinct to identify and focus on our child’s weaknesses. Children who are continually corrected and criticised can lose confidence in their own ability and this can have longer term consequences on their wellbeing.
Helping your daughter to focus on positives is also extremely important. This is particularly so in a society where there is continual negative priming, especially by the media. The Positive Psychology movement has highlighted the importance of trying to reframe our world with a more positive lens. Barbara Frederickson also supports this view in her research and her book Positivity, stating that we need to “experience “ three positive emotions for every negative emotion to foster our wellbeing.
A good way to help establish a positivity pattern is by conversation around the dinner table, if not nightly, as often as possible. Family dinners are identified as being a significant protective factor for children to help maintain good mental health. Ask the family “what went well” (WWW) in the day and have this as a dinner tradition. Not only will children learn to love traditions but this conversation and focus on positive emotions and mindset will be a really important foundation for long-term wellbeing.
Throughout the year I will be writing articles that focus on practical strategies that parents can implement to enhance the wellbeing of their children.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article or would like to suggest a topic of focus, I would be happy to hear from you. Please email me or call on 9473 7836.