“Cause we’re all searching for the Holy Grail.....!”

Soon after I started studying Positive Psychology I had the opportunity to hear Martin Seligman (considered the founding father of Positive Psychology) speak.  He started by asking the room of about 300 to think about what we most hoped for our children or other loved ones.  He then asked us to raise our hands if “happiness” was at the top of the list.  A sea of hands went up!  This seems to be the holy grail......

But what does that look like, what’s involved?  How can we help our kids find lasting happiness?

I don’t think there’s a foolproof plan, but I’m excited about the new study of Strengths based parenting which focuses on looking first for what’s going well rather than following our natural human tendency to rush to fix weaknesses. 

We all tend to notice problems faster than we spot what’s going well

When we were cavemen this was extremely useful as a survival tool, but it doesn’t serve us as well in today’s world.  For example, I confess that in the past I’ve read my child’s school report and honed in quickly on the 20% that could be improved rather than celebrating the good comments and grades.  This term I’ll try to focus first on the great stuff to highlight to my daughters what they’re capable of and to build optimism that effort is worth it. 

So, why give Strengths based parenting a go?

Recent studies show that children and adolescents who have strength based parents:

  • Have higher levels of life satisfaction
  • Have a better understanding of their own strengths
  • Cope with conflict in more pro-active ways
  • Use their strengths to help them meet homework deadlines
  • Have lower levels of stress

These are practical outcomes which help create flourishing, high functioning families.

Strengths based parenting involves deliberately identifying and cultivating strengths in our children

It’s about connecting our kids with their inborn strengths such as strengths of character (eg. humour, kindness) as well as their talents such as writing or sporting ability.

flourishing mothers strengths based parenting

To do this we can start with simply keeping our eyes open for the strengths in our kids.  We can train our minds to look out for the moments when our kids are awesome and work out what strengths are being used.  For example, imagine your child asks to take a piece of cake home for their sister from a party; you might be seeing their strength of kindness or fairness in action. 

As we become familiar with strengths we can start talking to our kids about them and let them know that we recognise and appreciate their best qualities.  This is what helps our children flourish.  If you’d like to learn more about character strengths the VIA Institute on Character is a terrific place to start.  http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths

But wait there’s more!

Making an effort to focus on the strengths of our children can also improve our own life satisfaction and confidence in our parenting skills!  The research also shows that parents who completed a course in strengths based parenting reported they were finding parenting more interesting and felt more confident in their role as a parent. They also experienced more positive emotions towards their children.  It all makes a pretty compelling case!

We’ve been inspired by the work of Dr Lea Waters and the stories of parents who are trying to be strengths based.  You can watch some parent stories here: http://www.the-strengths-exchange.com.au/parents.html 

Please contact us if you’d like to discuss how to get started with strengths based parenting and as this is a new and evolving field of study we’ll definitely tell you more about it in the future!

Best wishes

Flourishing Mothers

To work or not to work?............What are you really looking for?

Is it ever just a simple question for Mums?

Across the community, very few decisions are ever made in a complete vacuum, but the decisions that Mums make about how to structure their lives may be the most complex of all!  We tend to ponder at length how to meet the practical, financial, emotional and social needs of our families and ourselves and what role work will play. 

The risk is that your wellbeing suffers in trying to find the perfect solution.

Imagine this.....

You receive a phone call from an old workmate telling you about a great new position that’s been created at her company.  She’s even already told the Directors about you and they’re really interested to meet!

You’re probably pretty flattered and interested, but then the mental cogs start turning.......

  • Ok, I’ll have to work out the netball car pool again........
  • I wonder if leaving early on a Thursday would work......
  • I wasn’t really planning on changing anything till next year.....
  • But it sounds like a fantastic opportunity.........

Whether you’re currently working or not, the decision making process is inevitably going to have a lot of variables in addition to standard job search thoughts about the company, the location, the duties and the salary.

What are you really looking for?

Decisions are easier to make if you have a good grasp on what’s most important to you.  One area to consider when thinking about work, is the nature of your personal work orientation.  Research in this area of positive psychology has identified the three distinct work orientations of Job, Career or Calling. 

Are you looking for a Job? – You want to work mostly to fulfil practical needs.  These needs might be financial but could also be social.  You’re not overly passionate about work activities, and for the most part, your life outside of work is more important to you than your work.

Are you craving a Career? – You enjoy your work but are definitely thinking about the next step up the ladder or opportunity to take on more responsibilities. 

Are you hearing a Calling? – Your work gives you a lot of meaning and fits well with your values.  You feel a strong sense of pride in what you do and believe it makes the world a better place.  You want to spend as much time as possible on your work.

What description fits you best? 

The right thing at the right time!

Now here’s the thing – as a mum there’s no right or wrong work orientation!   But being able to identify what you want at a specific stage in your life can definitely help you make good decisions about opportunities that come up.  Feeling a sense of meaning boosts wellbeing but that meaning can come from various aspects of our lives at different times.

What do you think?  What are you looking for in work right now? Please leave a comment!

Best wishes,

Flourishing Mothers

Inspired and adapted from the work of Amy Wrzesniewski

Heavy thoughts? Feeling rattled? Then ACT.......

Did you know we have around 40 thoughts per minute? And linked to many of these thoughts are a vast assortment of emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant? No wonder at times we all feel overwhelmed by the noise in our heads and feel that emotionally, our day is a roller-coaster!

ACT on heavy thoughts

It’s pretty hard to prevent thoughts and feelings. And worse, as humans we’re programmed since cavemen days to have a bias towards the negative – we were on high alert for imminent danger (that lion attack!) and accompanying emotional responses such as fear. Even though nowadays there is a negligible risk of a lion walking through the front door, we are still biologically attentive to disappointment, frustration, sadness, shame, anger and fear…and the list goes on. Instead of battling the lion, we battle ourselves.

So, if we can’t always block our challenging thoughts or prevent our unhelpful emotions, we need to work out how to live with them - without acting on them, stopping doing things we love or living the way we want to, in line with our values or goals.

A well-researched framework used by Coaching and Positive Psychologists is ACT (an acronym for Acceptance and Commitment Training). ACT mixes mindfulness and acceptance strategies from psychology. We encourage our clients to notice their thoughts and emotions, but to let them come and go without “fusing” and becoming entangled with them in an unhelpful way.

Here’s an example of how 3 steps in the ACT process can work for mums.

Scenario: You’ve organised a park play date with some local mums but one thing has led to another and you’re late!

Mummy Self-Talk: “I can never get out of the house on time! I’m so annoyed with myself! I’m a useless mother!”

Step 1.  Diffuse. Reduce the power of painful or unhelpful thoughts. Notice your thought, then distance yourself from it.

  • More helpful self-talk: “There I go again, calling myself a useless mother. That old story ….”

Step 2 - Expand. Notice your emotion. Label it. Make room for it by imagining a vast space inside you comprising this emotion and every emotion you experience (including the pleasant ones), in effect, watering it down.

  • More helpful self-talk: “I’m feeling annoyed. That’s OK. I’ll take some breaths and this feeling can float in the balloon all my emotions, good and bad.”

Step 3 Engage. Start to direct your attention outwards to what you were doing and remember why you were doing it – how is your activity important to you?

  • More helpful self-talk “I’ll grab the keys, my daughter and her shoes as I really want her to have fun at the park and to enjoy a catch up with the other mums who are going.”

In our day to day lives, when we mindfully focus on the task at hand, and when we allow thoughts and emotions to come and go without struggling with them - we enjoy our days more, and allow ourselves to do things that are important to us both now and into the future.

Best wishes from Flourishing Mothers

Flourishing Mothers were inspired by the work of Steven Hayes and Russ Harris