I have a question for you. How many of you were taught to self-reflect positively as a child/teen? I suspect that the number of you who will answer yes is very small, or is perhaps even non-existent.
Throughout my childhood, my sister and I were fortunate enough to be very loved and our parents consistently did, (and still do), the very best for us. We were rewarded for good school reports and taken to nice places if we did something well. But, we were never given 'lessons' on 'blowing our own trumpet' so to speak - it just wasn't the done thing.
In today's messy, noisy, chaotic world, it's important for young minds to be able to reflect positively on themselves and on the unique qualities that they have. It's equally important for them to be able to recognise thought processes that don't serve them or support their quest for happiness.
Finding the quiet and stillness to encourage self-reflection can be difficult. So here's a few ideas on ways to weave reflection into daily life and what's great is that it doesn't have to be complex or time consuming.
Support journaling. It can be written or drawn, but putting pen to paper in some form is a wonderful way for a child to record their thoughts and to reflect on their day. You could provide them with a daily prompt and ask them to spend 5 minutes on creating the response. Possible prompts include;
Detail something you did or said today that you are proud of.
Consider something that makes you unique-how does it make you feel?
Share one thing that you learnt today.
What would you like to thank your brain and/or body for today?
What is your biggest talent/strength?
Consider a time when something went wrong. How did you handle that situation and what did you learn?
Practise visualisation. Visualisation uses the creative side of our brain and allows us to create stories and pictures in our minds. Encourage children to spend a moment or two reflecting on a successful moment from their day and visualising that moment. Make it a sensory experience. Prompt them to consider what that moment looked like, what they could hear, see and touch. Ask them to think about how their mind and body feels after their visualisation and ask them to take the time to praise themselves for the way they reached their success.
Use reflective, positive affirmations. These can be tailored by each child, but popular words to repeat daily include;
I am kind
I am loving
I am brave and able to try
xxxx is one of my many talents
I am able to create my own story
I am unique
I do not have to fit in. I am here to live my own life and to be me
We are all different and that's a wonderful part of life.
Don't ignore failures. It's not a word that is associated with positivity, but failure is a part of life and most importantly, teaches many lessons. If something goes wrong, open the lines of communication about it. Support children in thinking about how they responded to the mistake/failure and make that the focus. Consider the resilience that the child demonstrated, or the determination to try again.
Have conversations about difference. Society and popular culture sometimes don't leave much room for difference or individuality, so make difference and individuality acceptable. In fact celebrate it. We are all human, and yet all different. It's important that children know this and it helps to ease thoughts around comparison to others.
Notice your children's successes/positives and reflect on them in a way that empowers them. Instead of saying words like, 'It's great that you did so well in that test, I'm so pleased,' ask how they feel about doing well in their test and what they feel made it successful for them.
Share a moment at the end of the day where you reflect together on 1, 2 or 3 things that the child feels went went for them during that day. If they struggle to think of anything then support them in coming up with some ideas. Even on the hardest of days, there will usually be a moment of success/happiness/kindness to draw on.
Lastly, remember that positive reflection can cover all areas. A moment of kindness or helpfulness. A moment of patience or good listening. An academic or sporting achievement. A way of solving a problem, they all count.
So there you have it - a few ideas on the art of self-reflection. Now, let's support those young minds to like themselves, and who knows, maybe one day, they may even love themselves. Much love to you all.