Nurturing Youth, Strengths, and Future Generations
It’s often said that raising kids is the most important job in the world. Today’s children and teens are the next generations who will lead the world far beyond our own lifetimes. How do we interact with young people in our lives? Whether we are parents, grandparents, teachers, professionals, neighbors, friends or any other societal role, we can have a positive impact.
Positive psychologist, Lea Waters, PhD, author of The Strength Switch (2017) on the science of strength-based parenting suggests a radical shift in perspective. Dr. Waters recommends focusing on what is right with youth, emphasizing their strengths. This doesn’t mean ignoring weaknesses, but rather being in touch with our children’s strengths and our own, and learning to use them in positive ways.
Essentially, identifying our strengths involves knowing our capabilities and having a vocabulary to describe them. Researchers have developed several systems to classify strengths. Perhaps the most influential and well researched is the VIA Classification of Strengths and Virtues (Peterson & Seligman, 2004), which identifies twenty-four character strengths common to humankind. These strengths include curiosity, creativity, judgement, kindness, perspective, leadership, perseverance, bravery, zest, honest, social intelligence, fairness, forgiveness, teamwork, love, gratitude, love of learning, self-regulation, spirituality, humility, appreciation of beauty, prudence, hope, and humor (Neimiec, 2018).
Strategy to Nurture Your Own Strengths
- You can begin identifying your own strengths by thinking about a time when you were functioning at your best. Recall the details. Consider what you did, how you felt, and the impact or outcomes. What strengths did you use in that situation? How did you feel when you were at your best? Then ask yourself how you can engage these strengths in a current life situation, or to meet a current challenge?
Strategies to Nurture Youth, Strengths, and Future Generations
- Write a positive note to a child or teen you know. You might include the strengths you see in her, and how she positively impacts you or others. Be as specific as possible. If feasible, plan a visit with the young person, read the note in a personal conversation, and give the youngster the letter. Pay attention to her reactions and afterward discuss your feelings and hers together.
- When children or teens in your life are struggling with a challenge, how can you support their strength development? A few questions you might ask are: Which of your strengths can you use here? You might offer a strength that you have spotted/noticed in the youngster in another situation. When you used this strength before, how did you use it and how did it feel? How can you use this strength in this situation?
How Can Coaching with Ilene Help You Call Yourself to Action?
Ilene coaches with people seeking more meaning, mindfulness, and well-being at midlife and beyond who are ready to actively take the steps to get there. Ilene Berns-Zare is a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and seminar leader in the Chicago area.
Resources and References to Learn More:
- Neimiec, R. (2017). Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners. Hogrefe, Boston, MA.
- Peterson, C. & Seligman, E.P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. American Psychological Association, Washington DC and Oxford University Press, NY,NY.
- The VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtueshttp://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/VIA-Classification
- Waters, L. (2017). The Strengths Switch: How the Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish. Avery, NY, NY.
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