April 25, 2018 by Sandi Schwartz- happysciencemom.com
What is this parenting thing all about anyway? What is your end goal for raising your children? For me, I hope that my children are happy, healthy (both physically and mentally), successful in the purpose they choose to achieve, and independent. All of my guidance now is so they can eventually live a satisfying life without my help because someday I won’t be here anymore to hold their hand.
While our toolkit focuses on the stress management activities needed now, it is also building independence, resilience, and other coping skills for their future as well. It takes several years for our kids to develop the good character strengths needed for a happy, successful life–and a lot of work on our part as parents.
Good Character Strengths Our Childen Need
What are these character strengths that we hope our children will develop over time? The VIA Institute on Character researched 24 universal strengths that most of us have in varying degrees. We each have a unique personal character profile exemplifying a different combination of these character strengths, and we always have the ability to develop them more over time. Research shows that using our character strengths can help us manage and overcome challenges, improve our relationships, and enhance health and overall well-being. You can take a free character strength survey offered by the VIA Institute on Character (recommended for children 10 and older).
The first step in evaluating and developing our character is to have a clear understanding about the meaning of each of the strengths. In June Rousso’s book, The Little Book of Character Strengths, she cleverly presents them to us as a beautiful poem with colorful images that both you and your children will enjoy reading together. She follows the VIA Institute on Character’s protocol of breaking the strengths down into six key categories:
- Wisdom: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love-of-learning, perspective
- Courage: bravery, honesty, perseverance, zest
- Humanity: kindness, love, social intelligence
- Justice: fairness, leadership, teamwork
- Temperance: forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation
- Transcendence: appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality
How These Character Strengths Help Reduce Stress
As you can see, many of these character strengths are covered by our Happy Science Mom toolkit already. I have included the quotes from June Rousso’s book below so you can get a sense of how she explains the different character strengths in the book. Get your copy to learn about the other 19.
Creativity can be an important stress buster to help keep our kids calm. Art has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, so much so, that an entire discipline of art therapy has been developed. Art is a way of tapping into the right side of the brain where creativity, intuition, visualization, emotions, and daydreaming stem from. Check out these 10 ways to bring more creativity into your child’s life.
Creativity is shaping your thoughts into something that you
have never seen or heard before.
It is letting your imagination go and start to soar.
Science tells us that being kind to others is good for our health, reducing stress and boosting our mood. Our brain chemistry actually changes when we do something nice for another person. Studies show that thinking about, watching, or practicing kindness stimulates the vagus nerve, which is linked to the production of oxytocin in our brain. Oxytocin is a hormone that soothes us, making us feel calmer and happier. Kindness also triggers the production of dopamine, the hormone responsible for positive emotions and that natural high feeling we get. Check out these ways to expand kindness in your family’s life.
Kindness is going out of our way.
Saying good morning and have a great day.
It’s holding a door for a person you don’t know.
Cheering someone up when they feel low.
Social and Emotional Intelligence
Understanding the emotions we are experiencing, as well as recognizing the various emotions that others around us may be feeling, is an important skill to master. Emotional intelligence is important because it brings immense value into any interaction. From social encounters to personal relationships, having the ability to understand emotions helps to enhance experiences for improved decision-making.
Social intelligence is being aware of what others may think and feel.
And counting these thoughts and feelings as all very real.
It’s making decisions taking in another’s point of view.
And not just counting the view of you.
Appreciation of Beauty/Awe
Feelings of awe boost our mood. Our nervous system reacts in the opposite way to awe than anxiety. Instead of the “fight or flight” response kicking in, awe keeps us still and relaxed, benefiting both our body and mind. The world offers so many opportunities for our children to feel awe, such as spending time in nature, listening to poetry, working on art projects, and being amazed by science.
Appreciation of beauty and excellence is seeing the world
with wonder and awe.
The flowers, trees, rivers, oceans, watching a bird soar.
The silvery moon, the sparkling stars, the snow-capped mountains
and much, much more.
According to numerous scientific studies, gratitude is one of the most important ways for us to get a happiness boost and provides us with so many wonderful psychological, physical, and interpersonal benefits. It improves our health, reduces stress, and helps us focus on the positive. Stepping back and being thankful for what we have gives us energy, inspires us, and transforms us. Check out these 15 creative ways for children to express gratitude.
Gratitude is being thankful for what we have and who we are.
Taking time to express thanks for everything and everyone, near and far.
It is reminding ourselves of all that we have
when we think we have none.
That behind every cloud, there is a golden sun.
About The Author
June Rousso, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who has worked with children and adults in private practice and clinic settings. Much of her philosophy is based on principles of positive psychology. Enjoy June’s other book We All Live On This Planet Together. To learn more about her work, visit Amazon.com, indigoriverpublishing.com, or junerousso.com.
In what ways do you help your children build good character?