Helping kids build self-esteem and resilience

Today’s kids struggle with a range of issues, from depression and anxiety to poor body image and low self-esteem. In fact, research suggests that at any given time around 10 per cent of students will be suffering from a mental health issue that directly impacts on their education and health.

Here are a few answers from the authors of  I Just Want to Be Me - a new book to help our kids motor through difficult times or even just a really bad day!

Unpleasant feelings - how do we help our kids cope and move forward?

Avoiding unpleasant feelings is a natural response. How many of us would joyfully accept an offer to do some public speaking, for example?  Trying to avoid feeling “bad”, however, can stop us trying new things or extending ourselves. Help your child expand their life by acknowledging normal feelings of anxiety but going ahead anyway.

Thoughts - what's helpful - what's not?

Too often we treat our thoughts like they are automatically true, or wise, and give them a lot of attention. Encourage your child to see them as they are – just thoughts – then ask a more useful question: “Is this thought helpful?” If so, give it attention; if not, notice it but let it go.

Getting a negative thought or situation.....

If we are stuck in our thoughts, we miss out on really being present in the here and now. To ‘get present’, start from the ‘outside in’- notice what can be seen, heard, touched- then what is thought or felt. No judgement- just as it is.

Introducing a value system your child can understand - even when so young...

Help your child work out what values they want to live by day by day, on the way to achieving their goals (e.g. “What sort of student/friend/person do you want to be?”). This way, life can be more meaningful now, rather than having to wait to achieve X to be happy.

Just one step - can make a fantastic difference....

Taking a small step in a positive direction, chosen by us, can have a major effect on our lives. Help your child choose (don’t impose!) one small step they can take in the next day, next week, next month. Go into detail: what do they need? When will they do it? What do they need to keep in mind? And if they fail to act (which we all do sometimes), rather than giving up, help them recommit to try again with changes to the goal if needed.

Tim and Sandra Bowden are the authors of I Just Want to Be Me (Exisle Publishing $19.99)

In I Just Want to Be Me, Children learn about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (know as ACT, pioneered in Australia by Dr Russ Harris, author of the best-selling book The Happiness Trap). ACT teaches young people effective, flexible strategies for dealing with the stressors in their life and these principles are brought to life in I Just Want to Be Me. Told in a graphic novel style, readers follow the main character, Holly, through her encounters with monsters (symbolising her inner doubts and unpleasant thoughts), showing children how to similarly deal with their own issues and develop a more resilient mental attitude, and achieve better emotional balance.

Authors Tim and Sandra Bowden are school counsellors who work daily with young people struggling to survive the pre-teen and teen years, and are passionate about helping them build resilience. More information on the book (as well as statistics) is attached to this email. If you’d like a review copy or to interview Tim and Sandra, please let me know.