Building up self awareness, confidence and resilience is a key part of positive child development. One way to do this is to make children aware of their personal strengths and how they can regularly use them.
Talking about strengths
A useful way of starting the conversation about strengths is to ask children to think about their favourite superhero/book/TV character (whatever works!) and what strengths they admire in them. Give them the opportunity to talk about how and when the character shows specific strengths and explain why they admire these.
Alternatively, you could ask children to identify someone in their life they admire (family member, teacher, friend…) and encourage them to talk about what strengths they think that person has and when they have seen them use them.
When children are more familiar with the idea of talking about personal strengths they can then take time to think about themselves and the strengths and talents they have.
Parents, teachers, siblings and friends could also be asked to give them feedback on their strengths. This gives children more of an understanding of how people may see them in different ways.
Children 10-17yrs may also find the free VIA character strengths ‘Youth Survey’ a useful tool. In addition to this, the VIA Institute on Character offer further ideas on building opportunities to develop personal strengths in the $10 ‘Youth Profile Report’.
Strength spotting is the practice of actively looking for opportunities to acknowledge children’s strengths and openly appreciating them. Doing this will help children become more familiar with the language of strengths and have a better understanding of their strengths in action. Modelling strength spotting will make it easier for them to begin to note and realise when they’re using their personal strengths.
When children have identified some personal strengths, they could choose one or two to focus on and start to think about how they could build on these over the next week and use them in different ways.
At the end of the week make time for a reflection on what they chose to do that week and how it made them (and other people) feel. Are these actions something they could continue and build into a healthy, lasting habit? Perhaps they could add to them over time to keep things fresh and interesting.
Developing things further
When children are more comfortable using the language of strengths and are familiar with their personal strengths, there are a number of activities you could use to help them develop these further:
- Ask them to share an example of a time they were ‘at their best’ in the week. Which strengths were they using and why?
- Plan a playdate or family outing that allows children to use their strengths in a positive way.
- Delegate household chores/responsibilities so they play to your child’s strengths as much as possible.
- Explore if a strength can ever be used in a negative way – e.g. honesty and telling someone something hurtful even if it’s true.
Becoming more aware of their personal strengths enables children to develop positive self awareness, confidence and resilience. These are all attributes which contribute to a well rounded character and a child’s social and emotional intelligence as they develop through childhood.
Thanks for reading!