Welcome to your adult guide...
You can help them flourish. Below is packed full of information, ideas and games to help you make the most out of your adventure.
As parents, we want to shield our children from experiencing uncomfortable feelings but they are an unavoidable element to being human. Reading together provides us with an opportunity to explore different feelings and experiences whilst, as readers, we are feeling calm and safe. We can use this to help children explore feelings they may have experienced before, giving those feelings names and demonstrating that they are normal feelings that others also have. For children who may not have felt that way before it gives them the chance to learn about different situations and feelings, preparing them for how to manage those experiences when the time comes.
You can invite your child to talk about the different ways Isabel may be feeling, why she may be feeling that way, how the other characters may be feeling and what she could do to help herself. Have they ever felt that way? What did they do? What could they do next time? Children can find it difficult to speak about their feelings as they are still to identify them and put names to those feelings. It can overwhelm children to the point that it is hard for them to know how they really feel.
It can help to discuss how our bodies react to different feelings such as feeling sick when we are nervous. Discuss how Isabel’s body may have felt. What might she have been thinking and saying to herself. This could be a good opportunity to discuss the way we talk to and about ourselves in our heads. Talking to ourselves with kind words and with true statements is an important skill to learn. Just as we learn to say kind things to others and tell the truth, we also need to remember to do the same to ourselves. If your child thinks that Isabel would say unkind or inaccurate statements to herself such as ‘no one loves me’ or ‘l’m rubbish’ take the time to discuss how accurate these are and if Isabel deserves to be spoken to that way? We can teach children to reflect on what they say to themselves and ask themselves if what they are saying is really true and is how they would speak to a close friend or family member.
We want to normalise these feelings, making children realise that no matter how popular or liked a person may appear to be they too will experience these same feelings. Work with your child to create ideas on what they could do if they feel alone, or invisible such as talking to a trusted adult about their feelings or looking for the beauty around them. Creating a gratitude journal can support them when they feel invisible by reminding them of those around them that love and cherish them with acts and gestures they have felt grateful for.
Three Beautiful Things
The power of gratitude. Gratitude has been one of the main focuses of positive psychology research. What they have discovered has inspired me to develop the skill of gratitude in myself and in my young family.
Research has shown that one of the main strategies to develop gratitude is through keeping a regular, written journal. This is discussed on page 4 of this guide.
For young children, journaling can be difficult. Gratitude is a skill that we must learn and varies in how we demonstrate it in different cultures. Children can access different aspects of gratitude as their brain develops. Research suggests that the warm, happy feeling we get as adults through gratitude develops with age and the more we embrace gratitude.
We can help children develop positive thoughts and their understanding of gratitude by providing experiences for them to practice it. In this adventure, we want to capture children’s enthusiasm for the story and Isabel’s examples of looking for the beauty in the world and people around them.
Giving your children opportunities to stop and look for beauty or things that inspire wonder can help them learn the skills they need to be grateful. When your child is excited or had a great day try asking them what one of their favourite things about the day was. Asking for THE favourite may make it hard for them to identify the one thing that was the best. Asking for one of their favourite or one good thing can take the pressure off of identifying the best. Children may need help naming the good things in their lives. These things can be large or small. They may chose to identify smaller things like toys or food they enjoy but not mention family or friends. This is unlikely to be because they do not value family or love them more than a toy or food but because they feel family may go without saying. Gratitude and empathy are complex skills which young children are still learning. To help them it is important we support their choices of what they love, enjoy or find beautiful. If they feel comfortable sharing these thoughts they may feel more comfortable sharing troubles or feelings they do not understand with us later.
Getting out in nature has been shown to have positive impacts on our mental and physical health. (You will notice as you learn more about mental health that improvements in mental health often correspond to improvements in physical health.) Take the pressure off of what we class as ‘getting into nature’. Getting out of the city can be hard to do for a variety of reasons but it’s also not always needed. You can start small. It could be walking the streets looking for beauty in the plants we see growing (including weeds), looking at the beauty in the variety to stones we find in gravel or in the wood chip in the park. Find a small spot and discover the beauty in the bugs and wildlife you unearth. We have a lot to learn from our children too. Viewing the world through their eyes can help us as adults rediscover the beauty in areas of our life we have grown to over look. One of the keys aspects of gratitude is learning how to appreciate the good things in life which we naturally learn to take for granted. Try not to rush, don’t have a plan of what to find, just explore, trying to be in that moment with you or child to build an experience together to treasure.
Smith, J., Newman, K., Marsh, J. & Kelter, D. (2020) The Gratitude Project - How the science of thankfulness can rewire out brains for resilience, optimism, and the greater good. New Harbinger Publications: Oakland.