Here you will find help, ideas and tips to help your happy learner make the most of their adventure.
In his book, 'The Optimistic Child', Martin Seligman addresses the need for children to develop social skills. Social skills are needed to help children solve their own problems, which is essential for good mental health. As parents, we need to learn to let our children make mistakes, face challenges and find solutions. Seligman states that 'children who are at risk of depression find it difficult to state what they want in a clear, forceful manner.' Instead children can be 'overly passive or overly hostile' (Seligman, 2018). Being assertive is seen as the effective middle ground between being passive and aggressive. As children get older, they begin to rely on their relationship with friends outside of those in or known to their family. This can be a difficult time for children who need to develop their social skills. Struggles with friends and depression can often go hand in hand and affect each other (Seligman, 2018). Tips to being assertive: Describe the situation as accurately as you can. Try not to place blame. Speak clearly and calmly. Stick to the facts. Share how you feel. Try not to place blame. Describe your feelings as calmly and accurately as you can. Before you do this try to take a little time to work out how you are feeling. What would you like to see change? Try to be clear and specific with this information. Word it as a wish or desire and not an instruction. Share how you will feel if the change is made. If possible try to highlight the positive feelings such as 'I will feel happier' or 'I will feel more welcome', than 'I won't be so sad'. These are useful skills for adults too and you may recognise areas where you could improve too. If this is the case share this with your children. It is good for them to know that we too are still learning. Talk about how you might do this. Children learn the most by copying what we do. If we can model these skills they too will learn them easier. Ideas to help teach these skills: Role play situations using these skills. Identify good examples of these skills being used to solve problems in books, TV and movies. Pause when reading or watching something together when a conflict or problem arises. Talk together. What should the character do to solve this problem? Continue reading/watching. What did they do? Did it work? What could they have done better?
Seligman, M. (2018) The Optimistic Child: A Revolutionary Approach to Raising Resilient Children: Nicholas Brealey Publishing
What can make it better?
On page 4 of this guide, is an introduction to the growing body of research which shows that focussing on the positive aspects of our lives can help us reduce our experience of the symptoms of depression and anxiety and increase our feeling of wellbeing. Our adventures are designed to provide different examples and opportunities to do this. When things go wrong it can be difficult not to get caught up with all the negative aspects of what has happened and even to let this spill out into other areas of our lives. Helping our children get into the habit of focussing on the positives, even in times of trouble can help their ability to cope with set backs in life. Children need to learn to take responsibility for the role they play in events in their lives. However, it is important to stress that they should blame fairly and not take responsibility for events that are out of their control or for the portion of blame that fairly belongs to others. By focussing on the positive steps that children can take, they have the opportunity to take responsibility and are developing an awareness that they are in control of how they respond to events. On page 17 of the adventure, children are asked to think about examples of some of the things they can do to help repair friendships. It is helpful to children to demonstrate that it is normal in all relationships to have times where we differ in opinion and may feel upset. By talking about this at a time when your child is calm and is not dealing with that situation, children can approach this from a clearer perspective. Making a note of it in the adventure means that you and your child can return to it when they might need it and reflect on the suggestions they made. This is also a good opportunity to discuss healthy relationships and begin to discuss ways we would be able to identify relationships in our lives which are not healthy and may well be better for our physical or mental health to leave. Having these conversations may seem difficult but they can help keep children safe now and in the future. For more information on how to approach difficult conversations see the NSPCC website at www.nspcc.org.uk - visit the 'keeping children safe' then 'support for parents' section. You may want to try this idea for other areas in your child's life that they find hard to make helpful decisions in. At a time when they are calm, get them to think about positive choices they could make. It could be things they could do to rectify a situation or different, more positive choices they could make. For example, if your child often snatches a toy from a sibling or play mate you could discuss different positive actions they could take to get the toy such as find an alternative toy that the other child may wish to swap it for.
Balancing the scales
Balancing the scales demonstrates how you can use ideas from pictures books to create a springboard for different learning opportunities. Below are some tips to help happy learners develop a deeper understanding of scales and their application in life. Apply to real life - with all learning, the more you can demonstrate how it can be used in their lives the more motivation children will have to learn. Make it fun - why not go to the park and test out how the seesaw works? Try getting different people to sit on each end. Discuss who goes up and who down. Who is bigger? Does the result stay the same even if you switch sides? What do they think will happen when one of the people change? If there are enough of you can you arrange who is sat on the seesaw and where to try to get it to balance? How many people on one side will it take to lift the heaviest person on the other end? Keep it practical - if you can't get out to the park can you create a scale at home? You may have kitchen scales that work that way or create one using a cylinder such as a bottle and a book to balance on top. Test it out with different items or toys. Is it always the size of the toy that changes which goes up? Does the a bigger sized toy mean it also weighs more? Try comparing a larger cuddly toy with a smaller solid wood or plastic one. Test it out - what happens when you move the central pivot point? Make links - what other situations can they think of that would apply what they have learnt about scales? Are there times in real life they might use this to compare? How can they apply this to the use of levers? How does this compare with using a spade to lift heavy plants out of the ground?
This challenge is a personal favourite. It can be great fun for everyone and something unusual for children to experience. Using a raw egg makes create much more dramatic results (plus you may be surprised with how tough an egg can be) however it can be very messy so best done outside. You may want to do the creating and testing outside with raw egg in case any get broken while making the parachute or use a cooked egg which can be swapped for testing. Equally a cooked egg creates a lot less mess and risk.
This challenge is a wonderful activity to help children develop persistence and achieve a greater understanding of what this means. Persistence is a persons ability to keep trying to achieve an outcome. It is important to stress to children that although we might keep our target outcome we want to try different ways of achieving this and not stick with a way which is not working. This is an important skill to learn for children's wellbeing and approach to learning. Often children see failure as something to avoid at all costs, even if this means they miss out on learning or opportunities. With this challenge we want to highlight how useful failed attempts are for learning. You may want to do this over a number of days so that they can test out different approaches and learn from what didn't work or what could be improved in their previous designs. A good example of this is in the movie Meet The Robinsons. Use these tips to get the most out of this challenge: Let your child lead - you may realise that their ideas won't work or that the end result could be reached much more easily a different way but this is for them to discover. We want to highlight that we can learn a lot from what didn't work. Enjoy the failures - children can take joy from achieving their aim of saving the egg from the drop but failed attempts are wonderful to watch. Enjoy them, make the most of the mess they make! (An opened up bin bag or plastic sheet at the landing site might help you enjoy the mess too.) Be creative - they don't need to stick to a parachute idea, they can do anything they can think of to protect their egg. What different materials can they use? Old newspapers/magazines or paper? Old clothes? Up the stakes - would they like to name and decorate the egg before the drop? This isn't the best approach for all children. Some will love it but for others they can get upset when their now loved egg breaks. Add a competitive edge - once they begin to get a plan or a way that works increase the challenge by limiting the resources they can use. For example can they create one which only uses 3 pieces of sticky tape in it (they can obviously use other resources but not more tape or glue etc) Most of all - HAVE FUN!
If you are concerned about your child's mental health see a professional.