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Report Cards – Don’t Let Them Surprise You

It’s report card time! Even though this can be stressful for students, it can be tough for parents, too! Are you surprised when you see their grades? How do you react? In this article, we’ll answer a few questions parents commonly have and help you deal with the situation.

The purpose of report cards

Sometimes we misunderstand the purpose of report cards. They’re designed to involve your child in the process of getting good grades.  They shouldn’t be an indictment!  Rather, see the report card as a roadmap. Your child is at point A and the goal is to be at point B. Ask yourself what they need to improve in to achieve that goal. And, even better, ask them.

Where do bad grades come from?

So your child has had A’s or B+’s but now you see more C’s than you want to. This may come as a shock. Or your child has promised you that this semester they’ll get only A’s and B’s, but that didn’t happen. Now you’re disappointed. Do you ask yourself What did I do wrong? The best way forward is to include both yourself and your child in resolving such questions.

We started our discussion in the article Where Do Bad Grades Come From. Let’s continue that discussion here, exploring a few more possible reasons. Is your student a teenager? Teens have active social lives and other interests that are more important to them than getting good grades. A sudden drop in grades sometimes indicates a substance abuse problem, which is also linked with teens. Also, a transition to a new school can be very stressful. Plummeting grades can be a sign that a student is being bullied. High achievers often experience a high level of stress and if they can’t handle the pressure, their grades slip.

These are only a few of the possible reasons. The first step toward getting good grades is to determine the cause of the drop in grades. The next step will depend on the cause you’ve determined, but here are some DO’s AND DON’T’s that apply in (almost) every situation.

What DOESN’T help

Talking while you’re angry.

So you saw the report cards and now you’re angry. Haven’t you asked them a thousand times Did you finish your homework/assignments? They told you they did, but it doesn’t look like that. So you might start yelling. Don’t! You’ve tried this already and it doesn’t work, right? Your child probably expects this reaction and has prepared at least ten excuses. It will make them act defensively. Let’s try something different.

Focusing on negative things.

You saw C’s in the report cards, but have you also seen A’s and B+’s? Usually, we focus on what is wrong, what we don’t like, etc. Don’t underestimate what is right. Think about that before you talk with your children. Have they improved in some subjects? Maybe there are more topics that still need improvement, but every step counts.

Labeling the student as lazy, unmotivated…

This doesn’t change their behavior. It can only reinforce it and perpetuate the bad habits they have. However, providing understanding and motivation will probably have a positive effect on their study habits and improve their grades. Here are ways you can do that!

How to help your child get good grades

Student learning at the top of the big books

Talk when you’re ready.

Talking while you’re angry doesn’t work, so wait until you’ve calmed down. Also, prepare yourself. Think about questions you want to ask, the possible causes of a drop, how your student feels, etc.

Talk less, listen more.

Let your student take the lead. Don’t put them in the position of acting defensively – let them tell you how they see the situation. Don’t interrupt them while they’re talking – listen to them carefully. If you don’t understand something they told you, ask them to explain it to you. Talk about feelings, problems, and other intimate stuff. And because these are personal things, try your best to be understanding and supportive. If you act like this, they’ll have confidence in you and tell you something they usually wouldn’t.

Make a deal.

Make a deal with your child that every time they get any grade they’ll tell you about it. Isn’t it better that you find out about bad grades from them rather than in report cards? Make them feel that they can talk to you about problems they’re facing. Offer them help in handling the pressure and school stress. This way, they will more likely tell you when something’s wrong and you can help them deal with it before it has consequences.

Reward.

Another good idea is to offer some kind of reward if they improve their grades. Recognizing students for the work they put in is very important, even more so than rewarding them for better grades. Try with I’m so proud of all the things you’ve learned this semester. That can be anything that’s important to them / they like – for example, you can make them their favorite meal, buy them their favorite snack. or clothes, etc. Who doesn’t like a little reward for hard work? Remember that it doesn’t have to be anything expensive.

 

If your child still has trouble with some topics or with studying, consider asking for help. We offer online coaching and tutoring for academic and personal growth. Here you can find out how we help and feedback from people we’ve helped.

4 Tips to Help Your Child Adjust to Their New School

If you have just moved to a different place and want to help your child adapt to their new school environment, well, this article is for you! Leaving a familiar environment along with their good friends, teachers, and neighbors is a stressful experience for both younger children and (especially so) teenagers. [3] Here are a few tips that might make the whole experience easier and even exciting!

Meet the New Neighborhood

As a grownup, you’ve probably already dealt with moving in one way or another – maybe you did so at college, or for work, or after you got married. But for your kids, it’s a completely new and scary experience. We all have our own favorite little places in a town. For your kids, those might be the local park, schoolground, ice cream shop… So try to find something similar in your new neighborhood that could make them feel more at home.

Go for a walk with them and ask them which of the places you’re passing by they like. You can purposely stop and spend some time getting more acquainted with these places. This will increase their comfort level and sense of familiarity with their new surroundings.

Meet the Kids

Woah, that subtitle really looks like the name of some talent show, doesn’t it? What it means, though, is that your child left some good friends in the other town, and they’ll need to start from scratch and make some new ones. And if they try doing that on the first day at their new school, they’ll be experiencing all kinds of stresses all at once: new building, new rules, and on top of that – alone amongst their peers who are already friends amongst themselves? It can be overwhelming.

That’s why it’s a good idea to try to meet some of their peers prior to their first day of school. [3] You and your child together can visit your new neighbors to introduce yourselves. You might even want to take them a treat. Try to learn something about them and the other neighbors. If they have kids the similar age as yours – bingo! And if not, ask them about the other neighbors’ kids (make sure to explain your concerns and the reasons behind your questions, though: otherwise it might come out a little strange!). You can even arrange a small gathering for all the neighbors and ask them to bring their families along. Some of those will probably end up being your child’s new classmates, and they can get to know them and become friends in a more informal way.

Get to Know the School

Even before they attend their first classes, you can contact your child’s new school and arrange a meeting with an administrator. Talk to them about how things work there, and if you can, discuss which teacher would be a good fit for your student. Ask them if it would be okay to take a walk through the halls and classrooms. That way, it will all seem much more familiar to your child on their first day; they’ll have no trouble finding their locker, classroom, bathroom, or the cafeteria. Doing these things will reduce a great deal of stress for the child on their first day at the new school. [1]

Find A New Routine

Another thing we all leave behind when we move is the routines we’ve developed. This time around, it might take longer to get to school, which means waking up earlier. Instead of walking, it could mean getting on the bus. So try to stick to the parts of your previous routine that don’t need to be changed. If you’re used to having breakfast together, do it, even if it means waking up an extra half hour earlier. Make sure that your child goes to bed relatively early and wakes up early enough as well, so they can get sufficient rest and have enough time for everything the next morning. Packing in a matter of seconds, not getting to finish breakfast, and overall rushing can just add  to the already existing stress, so try to avoid it as best as you can. [1]

Bonus Advice

If you haven’t already (and even if you have), watch the animated movie called Inside Out – together. It’s told from the point of view of a teenage girl who had to move to a new place, new school, and make new friends. It will not only give you all some adjustment tips, but it will also tell you that feeling nervous and even sad is completely normal and should be talked about. [2] Don’t be overly enthusiastic and diminish your child’s feelings, but do try to inspire them to look at the positives as well. Above all, have patience. Reassure your child that it will take some time to get used to the new places and new people and to feel at home. Finally, let them know you’ll be there for them every step of the way. That way, adapting to changes will be a much smoother process.

References:

  1. https://www.theclassroom.com/adapt-new-school-16096.html
  2. https://www.schoolchoiceintl.com/how-students-can-adjust-to-a-new-school/
  3. https://www.thespruce.com/help-your-kid-adjust-new-school-2435862

 

 

How Do We Gain From Being Kind?

Kindness is one of those paradoxes – we become happier by making other people happier.

This sounds a little weird, right? Usually, when we think of being kind to someone, for example to a friend, we think how that friend can benefit from our actions. But we may also gain from being nice to others, too!

This article will show you the benefits of being kind and suggest some acts of kindness you can add to your daily life.

Benefits of being kind to others

There are many ways of being kind – you can donate, help, volunteer, or anything else that comes to your mind, but each one has benefits for you.

More happiness.

Acting kindly helps you relax and makes you feel good. It is shown that giving to others makes us happier [2]. We’re even happier when we’re buying things for others rather than buying things for ourselves. However, buying things for others is just one way to be kind – you can smile, pay a compliment, and much more.  For example, helping others elevates our mood, makes us happier and more optimistic. These feelings may last for days!

Fewer negative emotions.

In the same way that kindness elicits positive emotions, it reduces negative emotions [5]. If you are kind, you’ll feel less stress – you’re less likely to feel anger, sadness, or fear.

Better health.

Did you know that negative emotions are often harmful to health? Conversely, positive emotions are linked to better health. So kindness has its positive side effects on your health and well-being. It strengthens the immune system and enhances psychological and physical resilience. [5].

Better relationships.

People are drawn to others who are kind and look for this attribute in their romantic relationships and friendships [6]. If we think about this in a school context, it’s good to know that prosocial behavior boosts peer acceptance and popularity [3]. It also reduces the likelihood of being bullied.

Kindness is contagious.

Did you know that observers of a kind act may benefit, too? While witnessing a kind act, the watcher experiences a warm feeling, called elevation, which motivates them to behave positively and helpfully [1]. When you’re being nice to someone, you benefit not just the two of you; you help spread kindness. This way you influence the world for good! 

How to be kind to others?

Kindness doesn’t have to be about money – you can give your time or things you don’t use anymore, help someone, call or text others, etc. Think about what you’re comfortable doing, what is okay for you. Every smile, every thoughtful act counts!

Yet, sometimes it’s hard to start. It helps if you think about small kind acts and write down ideas that cross your mind. Think what could you do today, tomorrow, or on some special day. That way, you’ll more likely spot opportunities when they come up. You could also set out with the intention to perform a kind of act, like, “I’m not coming home until I’ve done something nice for someone else.” Intentional acts set the habit to see other opportunities in the future. Also, you can ask your friends or family members to join you. This way you can exchange ideas, do some things together, and support each other.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Hold a door open at a store for someone.

Share your lunch with a friend who forgot theirs.

Offer to help your younger siblings with their homework.

Tell your parents how much you love them.

Do a chore you usually don’t do.

Let somebody know you appreciate their help. Show appreciation of others in general.

Give an authentic compliment.

Say please, thank you, and sorry and really mean it.

Volunteer your time for a charity.

Be kind to yourself

Authentic kindness matters. Think about what you appreciate in others. Of course, don’t feel like you need to do more than you can do. Be kind to yourself too!

Being kind to yourself is equally important as being kind to others, sometimes even more so. However, experience suggests people are often much harsher and unkind toward themselves than they would ever be to others they cared about, or even to strangers [4]. But we all should be treated with kindness and caring and you need to treat yourself with the same compassion you extend to everyone else.
So, don’t forget – build a relationship with yourself, befriend yourself. Show kindness and understanding to yourself rather than harsh judgment and self-criticism, especially in instances of pain or failure.

References:

[1] Algoe, S. B., & Haidt, J. (2009). Witnessing excellence in action: The ‘other-praising’ emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. The journal of positive psychology, 4(2), 105-127.

[2]  Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319(5870), 1687-1688.

[3]  Layous, K., Nelson, S. K., Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Kindness counts: Prompting prosocial behavior in preadolescents boosts peer acceptance and well-being. PloS one, 7(12), e51380.

[4] Neff, K. (2003). Self-Compassion: An Alternative Conceptualization of a Healthy Attitude Toward Oneself. Self & Identity, 2(2), 85.

[5] Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, Happiness, and Health: It’s Good to Be Good. International Journal Of Behavioral Medicine, 12(2), 66-77.

[6] Sprecher, S., & Regan, P. C. (2002). Liking some things (in some people) more than others: Partner preferences in romantic relationships and friendships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 19(4), 463-481.

 

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Why Teens and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Alcohol is cool!

People drink, it’s not a big deal.

Adults (my parents, siblings, coworkers, etc.) are drinking, so why shouldn’t I?

I only drink sometimes…

I only drink beer and wine.

Do you recognize some of these thoughts as yours? What do you think about drinking alcohol?

You’ve probably heard a lot about it from your friends, parents, favorite TV show, and on the internet. But that’s not enough when it comes to deciding what role alcohol should have in your life. It’s important to fully recognize its effects on your health and behavior. For that reason, we’re providing you with facts about underage drinking in this article, so you can decide to be healthy and happy.

Adolescent alcohol abuse in numbers

Drinking is illegal for youth under 21 in the United States. However, people aged 12-20 drink almost 20% of alcohol consumed in the United States and there are over 10.8 million underage drinkers! Further, when young people drink, they tend to drink heavily – underage drinkers consume on average four to five drinks per occasion about five times a month [2, 4].

Drinking too much and at too early an age, creates problems for teens, for the people around them, and for society as a whole.

Eight reasons why underage drinking is dangerous

The negative consequences of underage drinking include a range of physical, academic, and social problems [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

  1. Underage drinking is the number one cause of death among youth under 21 years.
  2. Drinking causes many injuries – there are more than 150,000 emergency-room visits each year by youth under the age of 21 for alcohol-related injuries.
  3. Alcohol abuse can have serious consequences on your health. It damages the heart, liver, pancreas, and other organs and leads to numerous problems with them. It increases the risk of developing cancer and dementia.
  4. Drinking alcohol is particularly harmful to teen development because it can cause significant cognitive or learning problems and make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence. This is especially a risk when people start drinking young and drink heavily.
  5. Drinking may cause students to have trouble in school. For example, kids who drink are more likely to get poor grades and often have problems with social integration.
  6. Persons under the effect of alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behavior and illegal activities. Drinking makes it harder to keep your wits about you and to avoid or react appropriately in “dangerous” situations.
  7. Underage youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.
  8. People who start drinking in adolescence are at increased risk of having alcohol-related problems later in life.

Some people think that only drinking too much over a long period of time leads to these complications, but that’s not true. Sometimes drinking too much on a single occasion is enough to lead to serious consequences [1].

How to avoid drinking?

Okay, now you know reasons why you shouldn’t drink, but how to say no? Sometimes it’s not easy not to drink, especially at parties where your friends might pressure you to join them. There’s the fear that you might be left out. However, although you may feel pressure to drink, it’s your decision to drink or not. Make your choice and don’t let yourself be a victim of someone else’s behavior. Surround yourself with true friends. Would true friends make you do something that’s bad for you?

Here are some other ways to avoid drinking alcohol.

Prepare yourself.

Think about how you want to respond and behave. It’ll raise your confidence. It would also be helpful to share your thoughts with someone you trust.

Say no and let the person know you mean it.

Say it firmly and don’t make a big deal about it. Try to stand up straight and make eye contact. Keep your response short, clear, and simple – no, thank you. 

What should you do if the person persists?

If they’re pressuring you, repeat the same short response each time the person does this. If that doesn’t help, simply walk away.

Practice your “no”.

The first few times it may be difficult to say no. Because of that, try to imagine a situation where someone is offering you a drink. Think what that person might say and how you’d respond. Practice it out loud – for example, in front of a mirror. Another way is to ask someone you trust to role-play with you. That way you could experience real pressure and get feedback about your response.

Although there are many underage drinkers, remember most young people don’t drink alcohol and don’t support it. You are not alone in making this decision.

Why is this article written in April?

Did you know that April is Alcohol Awareness Month? Talk with your friends and family about drinking alcohol and its side effects. Help spread awareness. Also, Do you think that you or your friend has an alcohol problem? If that’s the case, don’t wait – get help. Reach out to a trusted adult!

Resources:

[1] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (U.S.). (2011). Beyond hangovers: Understanding alcohol’s impact your health. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

[2] Sommers, A. R., & Sundararaman, R. (2010). Alcohol use among youth. In Underage Drinking: Examining and Preventing Youth Use of Alcohol(pp. 9-22). New York: Nova Science.

[3] Taite, R., & Schraff, C. (2016, September 16). Here’s Why Your Brain Makes Quitting Drugs/Alcohol So Hard. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201609/here-s-why-your-brain-makes-quitting-drugsalcohol-so-hard

[4] The Scope of the Problem. (2004). Alcohol Research & Health, 28(3), 111-120.

[5] Underage Drinking [Brochure]. (2017). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/UnderageDrinking/Underage_Fact.pdf

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Healthy Self-Esteem – How to Build It?

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”Michel de Montaigne

Self-esteem is “how a person feels about him or herself, good or bad, and as manifested in a variety of ways, for example, in pride or shame, but especially in self-confidence” [6]. This feeling is related to a person’s judgments about their intellectual competence, social skills, appearance, physical coordination, etc [5].

How high is your self-esteem?

How people feel about themselves is on a fluid continuum that can range from low to high based on varying circumstances. Having low self-esteem means you may feel not good enough, as if no one likes you. Low self-esteem individuals are very self-critical. They often blame themselves for things that aren’t their fault. If someone compliments them for something they’ve done well, they don’t see the praise as reflective of any personal ability. They make things harder than they need to be. They’re usually shy and may have a fear of public speaking [4, 7, 8]. The anxiety that they won’t perform well leads them to avoid challenges and miss opportunities otherwise open to them, which only reinforces their negative feelings [2, 6].

Feelings of low self-esteem are rooted in a person’s own judgments of themselves. People’s beliefs about themselves, others, and the world around them are shaped during childhood, with parents clearly a vital influence (e.g. child-abusive parents) [5]. These beliefs can also be impacted by being treated poorly by meaningful others at any age.

If you tend to have lower self-esteem, these feelings might make it harder for you to live a fulfilled life. But low self-esteem isn’t something that you’re powerless to change. There are ways to help you build self-acceptance, self-love, and self-confidence, which will lead you to an easier, happier, and most importantly, a healthier life.

While people with low self-esteem are dissatisfied with themselves, suffer self-rejection, or even self-contempt, high self-esteem individuals consider themselves valuable and important. They are comfortable with themselves. When in the company of others, they socialize more easily and are resistant to peer pressure. Under stress, they’re able to handle negative emotions and overcome a problematic situation. They tend to surmount difficulties because they’re willing to attempt new tasks and challenges. Generally, high self-esteem contributes to feeling good and leads to greater happiness [2, 6, 9].

Is high self-esteem always beneficial?

One must take care not to go overboard on self importance. We should rather focus on the importance of balance. A healthy self-esteem is a balanced sense of self-esteem – judging that you are worthwhile and valuable.

High self-esteem is a heterogeneous category. It encompasses people who frankly accept their good qualities as well as narcissistic, defensive, and conceited individuals [2]. Persons with very high self-esteem may overly inflate the positive side of themselves. For example, when their ego is threatened, they risk making commitments that exceed their capabilities and preclude success [1]. It can also lead to increased sensitivity to negative feedback and make self-improvement difficult [3].

When we talk about high or low self-esteem, it sounds as though we have to choose which of these two categories we belong to. But you can have higher self-esteem in one area of your life and lower in another – one alone doesn’t define your whole character. Also, your goal shouldn’t be to be perfect, but healthier. Because of that, it’s much better to think about healthy self-esteem.

Six ways to improve your self-esteem

It can be difficult to break habits, so improving self-esteem takes time and persistence. But don’t give up! You deserve to accept and be comfortable with who you are. No person should be held back from reaching their full potential.

Use positive affirmations.

Positive affirmations may contribute to self-worth because they can gradually become true for you. Describe the way you would like to feel all the time. Say it out loud and frequently. However, in order for these affirmations to work, make sure you choose ones that are not too contrary to your beliefs!

Perfectionism is no good.

No one is perfect. Although it sounds weird, perfection couldn’t get you to where you really want to be. Embrace your imperfections. Stop being dissatisfied with what you’ve accomplished and your own performance. Instead of perfect, go with good enough. And let yourself make mistakes and fail. Sometimes you can learn more from failure than success. So be proud of what you’ve achieved, regardless of whether it looks small or big to you.

Recognize your strengths.

No one is good at everything and we’re all good at something (math, singing, or being a friend). Identify your strength and practice it more. You’ll demonstrate real ability and achievement to yourself. And because we tend to enjoy doing the things we’re good at, you’ll feel happier.

Set yourself a challenge.

Don’t let fear of failing make you stop trying new things. Go outside your comfort zone. Set yourself small goals like eat more veggies. Achieving them will help you feel better about yourself and motivate you to set even more goals.

Connect with people who love you.

If you spend time with people who treat you badly it’s easy to feel bad about yourself. Choose to spend less time with them and more time with people who love you and appreciate you, because they can help you challenge negative thinking. Ask them what they love about you and what are the things you’ve done right so you have a different, more positive view of yourself. Also, be willing to meet new people so that you can make new friends, even if it means trying new hobbies and stepping outside your comfort zone.

Be more compassionate towards yourself.

When frustration and embarrassment overwhelm you because you`ve failed to achieve a goal you set, don’t be too harsh on yourself. It’s a process, and you’ll need to adjust your goals along the way (and the goals should be about measurable things you can do, not outcomes). Imagine that a friend is in your situation and ask yourself What would I say to a dear friend? We often give far better advice to others than we do to ourselves. Direct those thoughts to yourself and change critical thoughts with self-compassion.

Remember, your self-esteem is fluid, so continue working to improve in these areas so that you can develop and maintain the healthy self-esteem you’re seeking. If you find it difficult, do not hesitate to contact us for more information about our coaching services.

References:

[1] Baumeister, R. F., Heatherton, T. F., & Tice, D. M. (1993). When ego threats lead to self-regulation failure: Negative consequences of high self-esteem. Journal of personality and social psychology, 64(1), 141.

[2] Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles?. Psychological science in the public interest, 4(1), 1-44.

[3] Brown, J. D. (2010). High self-esteem buffers negative feedback: Once more with feeling. Cognition and Emotion, 24(8), 1389-1404.

[4] Daly, J. A., Vangelisti, A. L., & Lawrence, S. G. (1989). Self-focused attention and public speaking anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, 10(8), 903-913.

[5] Emler, N. (2002). The costs and causes of low self-esteem. Youth Studies Australia, 21(3), 45-48.

[6] Ferkany, M. (2008). The Educational Importance of Self‐Esteem. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(1), 119-132.

[7] Jovanovic, A. (2017, July 27) Retrieved from https://nobelcoaching.com/shyness-in-child-development/

[8] Nedeljković, J. (2018, January 29). Retrieved from https://nobelcoaching.com/public-speaking/

[9] Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2013). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. In The exploration of happiness (pp. 97-116). Springer, Dordrecht.

 

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Four More Team-Building Activities For Teens to Develop Teamwork And Trust

We had such a great response from our first article on team-building activities for teens that we’re back with more ideas!

Team-building activities are fun and easy ways to help teenagers (and adults too!) learn and practice how to communicate their thoughts and ideas, develop relationships, and build teamwork and trust. These activities can be invaluable because being able to work effectively on a team is an imperative for the 21st-century workplace. Here’s a list of four team-building activities to help teenagers develop their social skills, teach them the importance of teamwork, and provide an opportunity to share their points of view.

1. Photo Scavenger Hunt

In this activity, small groups (around 4 members) have a time limit (e.g. 1 hour) to take photographs of various objects or situations. In order to play, each group needs to have at least one camera or a smartphone and a checklist of the items they need to photograph. This activity can be organized as a competition between groups where each item is worth a certain amount of points, with bonus points given for creativity and originality. It’s important to make the checklist as fun as possible and include both easy and challenging tasks. These could include various landmarks in the neighborhood, animals, a group reflection in the water, unusual food, something frozen, a picture where you look like you’re flying, etc. If you want to encourage creativity, you could use nonspecific tasks – take a picture of “something green” – “something you love” – “something that begins with the letter Z” or “something funny”  to give groups more freedom to express themselves. Many people have shared their own lists online, so you could use those as inspiration to create your own tasks.

This activity works best when members of each group stay together. If you want to practice teamwork, cooperation, and decision-making, you might decide to allow team members to split the tasks among themselves or reduce the time limit to make things more challenging. However, the activity could then become stressful and less fun. The “stay-together rule” is the preferred way to go, because as the group works on the activity together rather than having participants wander around alone, cohesion develops and social skills are enhanced. When the time is up, every group presents their pictures and the winner is chosen (the group with the highest score).

2. Fear In a Hat

This activity can be helpful for adolescents because they get a chance to hear different opinions about a specific personal problem or a fear they may have. Acquired information can be very valuable because teens often feel ashamed or scared to seek help from their peers. In addition, by participating in this activity, group members realize that everyone has similar fears and this promotes unity and trust.

Before starting this activity, the group moderator should make sure to set an appropriate caring and serious tone. Introduce the topic of fear, explaining that everyone experiences some worries or fears about all sorts of things, and that a good way to fight those fears is to acknowledge them openly.

After this, each person writes down their personal fears privately on a sheet of paper, which they then put in a hat. In order to make it easier for the teens to formulate their fears, you can use unfinished sentences like – “I am most afraid that…” or “The worst thing that could happen to me would be…”

When all the fears have been placed in the hat, each person in turn takes one out. (This is not done simultaneously because group members might focus only on the fear they pulled out of the hat.) After reading the contents, the first reader describes his own understanding of the writer’s fear. If the reader does not elaborate enough, the group moderator should ask one or two questions without expressing an opinion on the topic, unless the reader misunderstands what has been written.

Depending on the group size, the moderator can initiate a discussion with the rest of the group right after the first reader explains their understanding of the fear (whether they agree with the reader or not, what is their opinion, and have they experienced something similar), or after everyone has had a chance to be a reader. The moderator should facilitate intra-group communication, keeping in mind that the purposes of this activity are fear reduction and showing empathy and understanding.

3. Jigsaw-Puzzle Pieces

Setting up this activity is simple. A large jigsaw puzzle is divided and the same number of pieces given to each group. Make sure to divide the puzzle in a way that every group can fully assemble their own part of the whole. The moderator should introduce this activity in the following way – “The aim of this exercise is for each team to assemble the jigsaw puzzle as quickly as possible using the pieces provided. You will receive no additional instructions.”  This way, groups will think that they’re competing against each other before realizing that the only way to complete the entire puzzle is by working together.

This is a great activity for kids and younger adolescents where they learn that a competitive spirit can put cooperation and teamwork at risk. After the puzzle is completed, the moderator can lead a discussion around the fact that most jobs in the modern world require cooperation and teamwork, or more broadly, that humans in a society must work together to survive and advance. Another thing that should be discussed is the strategy each group employed during the assembling of their own section – were there any leaders, did everyone work separately, did they split tasks (e.g. sort the blue pieces, find the edge pieces), and how did all these things affect their efficiency and satisfaction with the activity.

4.  Spot the Difference

To begin this activity you need to divide the group into two teams. Then, have each team form a line so that each person is facing someone on the opposite team. Give the teams some time (e.g. 15 seconds) to memorize as much as possible about the other team’s appearance. After that, have one team turn their backs or exit the room so that the opposing team has enough time to change appearance. Each person should change a fixed number of things about their appearance. Any change is allowed, the only rule being that the changes must be visible. When the second team returns (or turns around), they need to find as many differences as they can. Once this is done, teams swap roles.

There are at least two ways to determine the winning team. One way is to determine a time limit – the winner is the team which found more differences during the limited time period. Another way is to remove the time limit and see which team notices all the differences faster. If a team cannot notice some changes, you can add time (for example 20 seconds) onto their total time for each change they could not find.

This activity is great for improving focus and memory, but it requires teamwork and communication, too. The team of observers can form a strategy (this should be explicitly suggested to groups after playing a round or two) where every person tries to remember as much information about the person right in front of them and one or two persons next to that person. Team members in the “observed” team should work together to make the changes in appearance hard to notice for the other team.

Teamwork is one of the key values here at Nobel Coaching. Check out our new engaging program Nobel Explorers where middle and high-school students work in small teams to learn something new, overcome a challenge, or accomplish a goal.

If you need any kind of advice related to project-based learning and teamwork of your children, you’ve come to the right place!

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by Marko Nikolić

Family Night At The Movies – Talking With Your Teen About Inside Out And The Purpose Of Sadness

In our series, Family Night at the Movies, we recommend movies for viewing and later discussion whose message may be helpful for teenagers and their parents.
In one of our previous articles, you can read more about movies as valuable tools in addressing the emotional and social needs of teens.

Our latest choice is Inside Out, the acclaimed Pixar animation movie of 2015 directed by Pete Docter, which deals with the emotions, specifically sadness:

The film is set inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, with the main characters actually being her primary emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust, who argue and compete with one another. The conflict between Joy and Sadness forms the basis of the action.

Warning: spoilers!

When her father’s new job requires that the family moved to San Francisco, Riley’s emotions are thrown into turmoil. She has torn away from her familiar, harmonious Midwestern life and forced to adjust to a new environment. In this classically stressful situation, we watch the battle of her emotions as they try to navigate these new challenges in her life.

Taking into account that the complexity of psychological processes is impossible to fully explore in a movie, Inside Out nevertheless effectively illustrates how our emotions work and how they connect to happenings in the outside world and to our cognitive processes.

Various lessons can be taken from this movie, among them that all emotions are equally important and the danger of the imperative to stay positive all the time. We have addressed these in a previous article, Come to the dark side, we have emotions. Here, we address an important third lesson – the purpose of sadness.

Purpose of Sadness – Adaptation of Loss

Emotions are specific reactions to happenings that are important to us and the purpose of each is an adaptation to the change, reconnection with important others, and ultimately the ability to move on with our lives. We are sad when we anticipate or experience the loss of someone or something valuable to us, so the particular purpose of sadness is a psychological adjustment to loss.
At the beginning of the movie, Joy, Riley’s dominant emotion, introduces the other emotions. She explains why each of them is important to Riley and points out that they all work as a team. However, when she comes to Sadness, Joy just skips it, admitting that she doesn’t really understand its purpose. So, in the face of this stressful situation, Joy prevents Sadness from acting and does not allow Riley to be sad, although that is clearly her most natural emotional reaction. She is losing her old way of life and being forced to adjust to a new one. She misses her old house, her friends, her hockey team, and also her father, who is more frequently absent because of his new job. She is struggling to adapt.

When we allow ourselves to experience certain emotions, many processes in both our mind and body work in concert to prepare us for action. The work of sadness differs in that when we are sad we feel listless and to all appearances become passive. Yet our mind is working actively to try to process the loss and reorganize our inner world in order to adapt to the new reality.

Purpose of Sadness – Relief and Connection

Another important function of sadness is its specific bodily expression. When we experience sadness without repression and let it flow freely through our body, we manifest specific facial expressions and body posture and will cry or sob.

Crying is a natural healing process. When we cry we are relieving tension and pain from our body as if the tears were melting the pain and alleviating our sadness. The release is complete with deep crying that involves sobbing since our distress is expressed through our voice and a different pattern of breathing. After a while, breathing is deeper, the body is relieved of tension and we feel much better. Reassure your children of any age; give them permission, let them know it’s okay to cry.

The specific body language associated with sadness has its social dimension, too. It is obvious to others that we are sad and they may show compassion. This is what, in the end, Joy finally recognized and came to understood to be the purpose of Sadness.

When Joy allowed Sadness to act and Riley finally expressed her sadness, her parents hugged and comforted her. In her distress, Riley’s image of “family” had collapsed and almost caused her to run away. Now the family was once again a team, reunited and reconnected.

Danger of Repressing Sadness

Sadness or any other emotion can be repressed when it is perceived as less valuable. “Being sad is for weaklings. I must be strong.” Our system of values is mainly formed through family and wider cultural influences.
Today we are witnessing a global trend which values “positive thinking”; a sort of industry of happiness to keep us smiling, optimistic, shiny and happy, which is not in accordance with our psychological makeup. Under certain circumstances, it is natural to feel fear, sadness, or anger. Every repression, denial, or compulsion to feel differently than we actually feel, leads to imbalance.

This is exactly what we learn in the movie. Since Joy doesn’t understand the purpose of Sadness and is afraid Sadness will spoil Riley’s happy life and infect her joyful memories, she multitasks in order to keep each new experience positive or funny at all costs.

The pressure to stay positive is even stronger when her mother praises Riley for staying so cheerful despite everything, implying that if both of them just keep smiling it will ease the pressure Riley’s father is going through. We’ll see later in the movie the consequences of this attitude. It is a reminder also for us parents to be careful with the messages we’re sending to our kids. You never know what kind of battle is going on in their heads and how they will interpret our words.

“Don’t feel” or “Don’t feel (certain emotion)” are frequent injunctions that repeat in the back of the minds of depressive or anxious clients going to therapy. The authors of Redecision Therapy, Goulding and Goulding, observed that when sadness is repressed, repression of joy and other pleasant emotions follows. As a consequence, a person is unable to emotionally bond with others.

That is why it is important to reassure your child of any age that feeling sad is okay. How do you do that? By understanding, allowing, and encouraging your child to feel and express sadness (and all other emotions), so cleansing can take place and the child can move forward. It is especially important to discuss later what happened and what made her/him so sad.

With teenagers, you can engage in even deeper conversations and we hope that some of the information in this article will help.

Ask your teens what they’ve learned from the movie. Did they ever feel as Riley did? What is the purpose of sadness, in their opinion? Can they identify their dominant emotion and the one they’re tending to neglect? For more about particular questions and how to lead a conversation after the movie, read here.

by Milena Ćuk,
Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-training

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The Secrets And Learning Challenges Of Dyslexia

If you have no idea what something looks like, you probably wouldn’t recognize it even if it was right there in front of you. You might not even notice it, right? But, if somehow it does attract your attention, you’d probably identify it as something you’re already familiar with, or try to explain it with what’s already known to you. We want an explanation for why things exist, even if that means inventing one!

Now, imagine – You see a “normal”, bright kid struggling with such a simple thing as reading.
How can that be?

If you have never heard of dyslexia, you might be tempted to call this kid “lazy”, “stubborn” or “not as bright as you thought they were”. You might think that the parents are being too soft and need to push the child to do better in school.

So, what is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. When you have dyslexia, your brain needs more time and energy for some of the processes many would say come “naturally” or “automatically”. Matching the letters on a page with the sounds that those letters and combinations of letters make is one of those things. People who have dyslexia experience difficulties with skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.

Who said reading was easy?

Nobody is born with the ability to read. (Obviously!) It is an activity that requires a lot from our brain, which needs to be able to focus on the letters, put them into words, then the words into sentences, and link the sentences into paragraphs so that we can read them –  and only then, understand the content of what we’re reading. So, when you see the letters D, O, G connected, your brain needs to pick up the letters, connect those letters to specific sounds and then read the word “dog” and also comprehend that the word on the paper is a symbol for a cheerful, four-legged animal that loves playing “fetch” with you.

So – reading is NOT easy, even though many think it is.

What causes dyslexia?

We’re still trying to figure out what’s actually going on in the brain. Anatomical and brain imaging studies show differences in the development and functioning of the brain in a person with dyslexia. What we know for sure is that most people with dyslexia have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word. Understanding how the letters represent speech sounds seems to be the key factor in reading difficulties. What’s important to know is that this learning disability has nothing to do with how intelligent you are.

What are the risk factors for dyslexia?

People with dyslexia have, in many cases, experienced difficulties with learning to speak, difficulties with differentiating the sounds in speech, difficulties in learning letters, organizing spoken language, memorizing words, etc.
Also, the parents of dyslexic students tend to report delays in reaching common milestones of childhood, such as learning to crawl or walk or ride a bike.

What are the typical signs of dyslexia?

Depending on the age, dyslexia can be spotted through a variety of signs.
We’ll outline some of the most common ones.

PRESCHOOL

  • Difficulty learning new words
  • Difficulty guessing a word based on its description
  • Difficulty recognizing whether two words rhyme
  • Difficulty in pronunciation of familiar words
  • Difficulty sounding out unfamiliar words
  • Difficulty remembering multi-step instructions
  • Difficulty remembering the order in which things appear in a story
  • Difficulty structuring the answer about how the day went or how something happened
  • A child does not use as many words as peers do
  • A child tends to mix up words that sound familiar
  • A child tends to struggle to organize a story chronologically

GRADE SCHOOL

  • Difficulty learning letters (and writing them)
  • Difficulty differentiating similar letters both in writing and reading (like b and d)
  • Difficulty recognizing which letters produce which sound
  • Stalling while reading; guessing a word based on the first two letters
  • Difficulty isolating the middle sound of a word
  • Difficulty recognizing the spelling of a word
  • The student quickly forgets how to spell the words he reads
  • Struggles with word problems in math
  • Difficulty remembering the key elements of a story
  • The student focuses so much on the reading itself that he fails to remember and comprehend what he has read

MIDDLE SCHOOL

  • Makes a lot of spelling errors
  • Avoids all assignments that require reading
  • Takes a lot of time to finish homework that requires reading
  • Gets nervous while reading
  • The student reads at a lower academic level than they speak
  • The student tends to re-read sentences to be able to comprehend them
  • The student tends to forget what he has read
  • When reading, the student often makes pauses with “um” or filler words

There’s more to dyslexia than you’d think

Not being able to read and write at the same level as your peers can significantly affect how you see yourself. The peer group tends to mock the student who isn’t able to do things they do with ease. That is why it is extremely important to pay attention to how the student is feeling and how he sees himself.

The students with dyslexia tend to think “out of the box”. They are creative and innovative.
These are the strengths that any person working with a student with dyslexia should capitalize on.

What to do if you suspect that your child has dyslexia

  1. Consult with the experts – speech therapists and psychologists. They will do all the necessary testing to see whether the student has dyslexia.
  2. If it turns out that your student does have dyslexia, do not despair. There are many successful people who have this diagnosis. With proper treatment, you can help your child succeed in school. Just make sure you contact professionals on time.

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Why Do The Arts Matter?

Things children and parents alike can learn from art

Enjoying art for art’s sake is a noble goal we should all aim for, as it unquestionably enriches our lives. But in a world where time spent on art can be viewed as time better spent on something “more useful”, it can’t hurt to remind ourselves what art actually does for us. Most parents and children invest their every waking moment in learning more, on extracurricular activities, and improving their chances of getting into the school they want. Meanwhile, art pursuits often get left behind even though they, too, can promote the skills necessary for academic and life success. This article reminds us of the ways the Arts enhance our learning and enrich our lives.

The Arts make us more creative

It is impossible to overstate the benefits the Arts bring to our creativity and divergent thinking [8]. As we express ourselves through various art forms or observe the art of others, we come to understand that being creative isn’t exclusively confined to the world of art itself. Rather, it enables us to see the larger world through different eyes and teaches us how to be creative and innovative in many fields not necessarily having anything to do with the Arts themselves [3].

Enjoying the Arts “makes us smarter”

Art, like science, is a broad term with many interpretations, but most art can teach us something about aesthetic perception and taste [1]. This isn’t where the magic ends, though. How many times have you heard that you need to read a lot in order to be well spoken or be a good writer? Literature is art and enhances our vocabulary and language skills [4].

However, it is not only literature and reading that can improve our skills and widen our knowledge. When children draw, paint, or play with clay, they are not only creating their own art, but they’re learning about the world and at the same time developing their cognitive skills by going through the oh-so-hard decision process of which color to choose, planning how their drawing will look, tweaking and experimenting. In other words, art gives children a chance to make decisions and learn from them [6].

The Arts teach us how to be human

While nothing can really prepare us for a living except actually living and learning along the way, the Arts offer us an invaluable window into the human experience and can teach us how it is to live on this planet for different people from different places. It also shows us our similarities and differences and helps us empathize with others. For instance, Maya Angelou’s autobiographical “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, though written in 1969 and relates events that happened in the ‘30s and ‘40s, still manages to teach us a great deal about racism and how to overcome it, and gives us a different perspective on coming of age as an African-American girl in the United States back then. Similarly, paintings can show us a lot about how some people live and what is important to them, and also help us understand the way they perceive reality.

This insight into the lives of different people helps with our social skills, but there are other ways the Arts can nurture these skills. Many artistic endeavors, such as different types of dramatic performance or large-format paintings, can be created by groups or with one partner, thus teaching the participants how to be cooperative, helping, and caring and how to share with others [5].

The Arts help us master our emotions and feel better about ourselves.

Expressing and regulating our emotions is essential to our everyday life, but a lot of us experience difficulties with one or both of these. Art is there to help when things are too complicated to verbalize. This is often the case for children, so it is especially beneficial for them to have access to art and to feel free to draw things the way they
want. It can be instructive to give a child a piece of paper when they are upset or unusually quiet since many things can be revealed through their art. There is usually some meaning behind a child exaggerating something in a drawing, not paying attention to something else at all [3] or simply using dark colors.

Art is also used in therapy to help people with a wide range of problems and has been shown to have beneficial effects on emotion regulation [2] and attitude, and in improving self-image [7].

Additionally, specific activities like drama and dance can be great confidence builders [5] and help with stage fright. Just participating in the realm of art teaches us perseverance and focus, as art requires practice and a high level of concentration [9].

Nurturing your child in his/her artistic endeavors and also enjoying participating in the Arts yourself, mindful of their benefits or even just for their own sake, is definitely worth your time. Not only will they enrich your lives, but they will make your child and you better human beings in every way possible.

REFERENCES:

  1. Arslan, A. A. (2014). A Study into the Effects of Art Education on Children at the Socialisation Process. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 4114-4118. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.900
  2. Brown, E. D., & Sax, K. L. (2013). Arts enrichment and preschool emotions for low-income children at risk. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(2), 337-346. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.08.002
  3. Extension (August 31, 2015). Creative Art Helps Children Develop across Many Domains.
  4. Klein, O., Biedinger, N., & Becker, B. (2014). The effect of reading aloud daily—Differential effects of reading to native-born German and Turkish-origin immigrant children. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 38, 43-56. doi:10.1016/j.rssm.2014.06.001
  5. National Endowment for the Arts (2015). The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation.
  6. PennState Extension (February 6, 2014). Art – An opportunity to develop children’s skills.
  7. Schweizer, C., Knorth, E. J., & Spreen, M. (2014). Art therapy with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A review of clinical case descriptions on ‘what works’. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41(5), 577-593. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2014.10.009
  8. Sowden, P. T., Clements, L., Redlich, C., & Lewis, C. (2015). Improvisation facilitates divergent thinking and creativity: Realizing a benefit of primary school arts education. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(2), 128-138. doi:10.1037/aca0000018
  9. Strauss, V. (January 22, 2013). Top 10 skills children can learn from the arts.

By Anja Anđelković

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4 SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL SKILLS YOU CAN EASILY PRACTICE WITH TEENS

Whether you are a parent or work directly with teens, here you can read about some concrete social/emotional skills and useful activities that can help teens practice them. We will cover basic information about Listening skills, Assertiveness, Emotional awareness, and Nonverbal communication.

Why practice social/emotional skills?

Whether we call them soft skills, social/emotional skills, social/emotional intelligence or growth mindset, there is a consensus among researchers and practitioners that we need certain abilities to achieve our fullest potential at school, in our professional careers, and in our private lives. These abilities help us recognize and manage our emotions, cope with obstacles and life challenges, and enhance communication skills and good interpersonal relations (including empathy).

According to an analysis of longitudinal studies in nine OECD countries published in Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills by OECD in 2015:

“Children’s capacity to achieve goals, work effectively with others and manage emotions will be essential to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Besides acknowledging the importance of social/emotional skills such as perseverance, sociability, and self-esteem, the report discusses how policy-makers, schools, and families facilitate the development of social/emotional skills through intervention programs, teaching, and parenting practices.

All these abilities are interrelated and their development starts at home and continues throughout the school years. If parents and important adults show a high level of social/emotional maturity, it will be easier for kids to acquire these abilities simply by modeling their behavior.

However, it is always useful when children and teens have a chance to practice social/emotional skills under the guidance of experienced adults. The best case scenario is when programs for enhancing social/emotional skills are an integral part of an educational system and a local community’s initiatives.

Below, we will look at some important social/emotional skills and suggest simple activities for practicing them, adjusted to teens.

1. Social communication skill – Listening

Being able to hear what people are really saying is a valuable communication skill that has a major impact on the quality of our relations with others. You’ve probably already heard about Active Listening, a skill that allows us to hear not only the words people are saying but also the emotions they are reflecting through their nonverbal behavior. Both are important in understanding the whole message being communicated.

This is a complex skill that can be practiced. In the following activity, the focus is on practicing concentration; listening to the verbal message with undivided attention. You can practice this activity with a group of teens in your home, in the classroom or in a workshop.

Instruction

Firstly, ask all the participants to sit in a circle. The first person starts to tell a story (whatever he/she wants). After 3-5 sentences, say “stop” and randomly choose another participant to continue. This person now has to repeat the last sentence said and then continue making up the story. If he cannot correctly repeat the last sentence after five seconds, he is disqualified. The game continues with the same rules and the winner is the last person remaining after everybody else is disqualified.

This is the competitive version of the game. However, you can make up your own version, without disqualifications or adding new elements that you find useful.

Have a discussion

Ask participants to reflect on the game. When and how was their attention distracted? What helped them concentrate and remember the previous sentence? Check out our forthcoming online training Let’s Make a Deal – active listening is one of the objectives!

2. Social communication skill – Assertiveness

Assertiveness, as a style of communication, is characterized by the ability to directly and confidently express our genuine opinion, feelings, or attitudes, such that the rights of others and social circumstances are respected.

It is proven that assertiveness affects our self-esteem and self-confidence, so there’s no doubt that practicing assertiveness is useful for teens. It is a complex skill that can be acquired through a training program led by a trained coach/therapist. However, some aspects of assertiveness can be practiced through simple exercises at home and in a school setting.

Maybe the most important point is to assure teens that it’s okay to claim their rights and to ask, to initiate, to express their opinions and feelings. That it’s okay to say NO to other people in a respectful way.

In this exercise, the focus will be on encouraging teens to initiate a conversation in which they will ask something of others and express their opinion or feelings. It can be practiced as social challenges given to teens either by their parents or teachers.

Instruction

Firstly, a list of social challenges is created, taking into consideration a teen’s age or social needs. Challenges can be written down/printed on separate cards. If given consent to take part in the challenge, a teen takes a random card and his task is to do what is required on the card in the next 24 hours or over several days, as you jointly arrange.

Challenges can be practiced once a week or according to whatever schedule you agree upon.

Examples of social challenges:

  • Give an honest compliment to someone.
  • Learn two new things about somebody from your class.
  • Share with a friend what’s been on your mind lately.
  • Call customer service at your favorite store and ask for information about some product you like.
  • Tell your best friend what you like about him/her.
  • Ask a teacher (or a coach) for clarification of a task you didn’t understand completely.

Have a discussion

After the task is accomplished, it’s important to discuss with the teen how the particular challenge made him feel. Did he find it easy, hard, awkward, or something else? What could be alternative ways to ask, to express? How did others react?
The inspiration for this activity is taken and adjusted from the Speech Bubble SLP.

3. Emotional skill – Emotional self-awareness

We have already written about self-awareness as the basic ability to understand our own inner processes and to relate adequately with others. Emotional awareness, in this context the ability to recognize our own feelings, is the foundation of emotional intelligence.

Besides helping us be aware of our emotions, these skills are important for developing emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman and his bestselling book Emotional Intelligence. Understanding why we feel a certain way and knowing how to handle these feelings, including self-motivation; the ability to recognize the feelings of others (empathy) and to motivate them – these skills are crucial to success and happiness in every aspect of our lives and in our relationships with others.

In the following activity, the focus is on getting in touch with eight emotions a teen chooses, raising awareness of how a particular emotion manifests itself, and how it affects the teen’s life. It is based on art therapy principles and is performed individually. However, it can be practiced in groups, too. You need a white paper and colored markers.

Instruction

Firstly, ask a teen to draw a circle and divide it into eight pies. Then, ask him/her to dedicate each pie to one emotion and fill in each pie with a corresponding color or images that match his/her idea of what the emotion means to him/her. It may be that a teen has a problem coming up with eight emotions. You can assist him but never choose instead of him. Don’t push if he can’t come up with eight. Work with whatever he manages to present.

Have a discussion

After the teen is done with the drawing, initiate a dialogue. You may find these questions useful: What does each image mean to you? What made you choose those particular colors? When in your life do you experience this emotion? What emotion is dominant for you nowadays? What emotion is the hardest to handle? And so on.

If a teen has a problem in coming up with emotions, you can use Plutchik’s wheel of emotion to help him recognize emotions he would like to work on.

emotions in teens

 

This exercise is taken and adjusted from the Art therapy directives BlogSpot.

4. Social/emotional skills – Understanding nonverbal communication

Good understanding of nonverbal communication is a sign of social and emotional intelligence.

The ability to observe and understand nonverbal signs during communication, or any other interaction between people, gives us tremendous information about the real message being communicated. It is especially important when we notice that the verbal message and nonverbal behavior are not harmonized. It also gives us a clue about the motives of the person we are communicating with or their emotional state.

Besides what is said, it is always important to follow HOW it is said. Basic nonverbal aspects of human behavior to be aware of include eye contact, the tone of voice, facial expression, gestures, personal distance, body language, and posture.

The following activity, based on acting and improvisation methodology, focuses on recognizing the emotional state of participants exposed to simulated social situations, through observing only their nonverbal behavior. A group is needed for this activity.

Instruction

Ask a volunteer from the group to leave the room. Separate instructions are given to him/her and to the group, who stays in the room in order to prepare for the final scene. While the volunteer is outside, each individual in the group has to choose one emotion and must express this emotion only through nonverbal behavior (acting). Remind them of the different aspects of nonverbal communication.

Meanwhile, the volunteer outside is given the task of coming up with several social situations familiar to teens such as: in class; during family dinner; on a date; at a birthday party; working on homework, etc.

Finally, when the volunteer is back to the room, he sets the scene: You’re in class (for example). All members of the group act as if they are in the classroom, including expressing their chosen emotional state nonverbally. They can use their voice but only in the form of inarticulate sounds. The volunteer observes their behavior and tries to guess how they feel. If he is confused, he can put them in another social situation (or only for fun:). The game can be repeated several times with different volunteers, emotions to guess, and social situations.

Have a discussion

After it is revealed which emotion has been presented by each member of the group, a discussion follows. You may find these questions useful: What are the main nonverbal indicators of this emotion? How did you feel while acting? Did anybody have difficulties acting in the scenes (why)? What do you usually do when you feel (this particular emotion)? What do you usually do when you recognize somebody acting like this? Was there something confusing and what? – A question to the volunteer.

Depending on available time and the goal of your group work you can go even deeper into a conversation about particular emotions. If you are interested in activities useful for teen’s emotional development, you may like this article.

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