The Value of a Strength-Based Approach
In the last two years, our young people have spent increased amounts of enforced time with their parents and have relied on parents for vital sources of social support during school closures. This increased time and reliance on parents means that the style of parenting received during lockdown is likely to have a significant impact on the degree to which an adolescent can grow through the stress they are experiencing.
(Evans et al., 2020).
As we end Term 1, 2022, let's be grateful for our first full term back on campus for two years and acknowledge becoming a vibrant community again. It has been a very full calendar so far, which has included camps, Homestead night, activities, in-real-life classes, excursions, swimming & athletic carnivals, the year 12 formal and more.
However, navigating this welcome change is not without its challenges. There is the ongoing impact of COVID, increased separation anxiety from home and family, and the self-regulation and cognitive focus required by each individual to re-enter shared spaces such as classrooms and Homesteads. We see students with reduced capacity to concentrate for extended periods, navigate and calibrate changes to social networks and peer groups, and be with and around people most of the day. We have also noted some students struggling to enact an increased degree of independence and organization, and so it goes.
Keep in mind that for our young people, their brain architecture and physiology are simultaneously having some significant overhauls and renovations, which can make it harder for them to think logically and rationally. We – the grown-ups in their lives – need to know that at any point, we can help them or hinder them from getting back on their feet and moving forwards – gently and steadily.
The value of Strength‐based parenting
Professor Lea Watershas researched and written extensively on the subject of Strength-based parenting, which she describes as,
"an approach where parents deliberately identify and cultivate positive states, processes and qualities in their children. It's about connecting your kids with their inborn strengths such as strengths of character (eg. humour, kindness) as well as their talents such as writing or sporting ability. These strengths are the inner resources contained within our kids that help boost their life satisfaction."
Even before COVID, it was well documented that adolescence is a time when life satisfaction drops off. This is especially significant as we know that life satisfaction acts as a buffer against the development of psychological disorders during adolescence. Research identifies that young people with higher levels of life satisfaction have stronger emotional, academic, and social skills.
Hence, it may be more important than ever for parents to find deliberate ways to boost their child's life satisfaction, and Strength-based parenting is one such approach.
Research shows that children and teenagers who have strength-based parents:
- Have higher levels of life satisfaction
- Have a better understanding of their own strengths
- Cope with conflict in more proactive ways
- Use their strengths to help them meet homework deadlines
- Have lower levels of stress.
- Have enhanced a sense of self‐efficacy, which is a factor that assists young people to cope and be adaptive
Strength-based parenting doesn't just benefit our children; it also improves our life satisfaction and confidence as parents and promotes a shared understanding and value of each family member's wellbeing.
Practical tips for parents to apply to strength-based parenting
Strengths spotting: Think about the strengths that underpin your child's actions and let them know what you see. Spot the kindness that underpins their sharing with their friends, their self-control to finish homework on time rather than watch TV and the persistence they're using in sports training.
Strengths letter: Write a letter to your child letting them know about the strengths you see in them and how these strengths will help them cope with challenging times as well as helping them to thrive during good times.
Strengths surveys: There are many online surveys that children can take to help them identify and think about their strengths. The Gallup Institute has the StrengthsExplorer for children aged 10-14 and the StrengthsQuest for children aged 15-25.
If parents and children are interested in identifying personality strengths, they can go to The Values in Action Institute and complete the free online VIA-Youth survey. This is something that most of our students have undertaken at school.
Strengths role model: It always helps to see how other parents and kids are using their strengths. Visit the The Strengths Exchange and discover how parents and children of all ages apply character strength to every day.
As a community, we have much to be grateful for as there continues to be much adversity occurring in our world right now (the war in Ukraine, natural disasters, climate change). And it can be a sad and overwhelming time for our students, our children and ourselves. We may not be able to control the things that happen in the world, but the value of a Strength-based approach can influence a young person's capacity to cope and potential to grow through life's stressors. And can help us all be stronger as we navigate the next stage together.
Director of Counselling – WOODLEIGH SCHOOL
Acknowledgements & further reading: