Stars: ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This is a fantastic resource for both home and the classroom, allowing children to explore who they are and, in turn, develop skills to aid with anxiety, worries or simply navigating life in the current climate. With activities, advice and research showing children how they can begin to, or continue, growing their own self-confidence, it is a book that is brilliant for parents and practitioners alike. My own copy is included in my ‘Calm Corner’ wellbeing basket, which children can access whenever they choose throughout the day. It can be used independently, or with the help of teachers and parents.
I am extremely lucky today to have a Q&A with the authors, Dr Linda Papadopoulos and Nadim Saad. Here, they tell us why they chose to create this life skills journal, as well as how they think it is relevant to children today.
1) What inspired you to create a life skills journal for children?
This book came about as a means to address a question that I think has been floating around recently for many parents, namely: in a world that seems to be saturated with screens, pressures to live up to arbitrary ideals and stories of declining mental health amongst children, how do we equip our kids with life skills that will help them navigate the world with resilience, optimism and self belief?
A big question I know, but one that I think is critical that we try and address if we want to be proactive about the mental health of our kids rather than merely reacting when things go wrong.
As a mom and practicing psychologist for over 25 years I know the importance of fostering cognitive habits that promote good mental health. We know that developing emotional resilience allows children to feel a sense of volition over their lives, and this in turn, allows them to navigate the world more confidently so they are able to enjoy life when things go their way and, critically, not be phased when things don’t. Emotional resilience enables kids to be kind to themselves during tough times and allows them to regard setbacks as puzzles to be solved rather than insurmountable mountains to climb.
Throughout the entire process, Nadim, myself, and his wonderful team chatted about our own kids and how we all wanted to create something meaningful with them in mind. I feel confident that we achieved what we set out to do.
2) Why do you think it is particularly relevant in today’s world?
The pandemic has exacerbated the sense of overwhelm in children (and adults), already struggling with being confronted with much more information and many more choices and demands than previous generations have ever experienced.
When Nadim (Saad) and I met, our discussions quickly turned to what more we could do to help children, at an earlier age. Nadim has already developed a number of great, science-based, fun tools and journals for kids aged 6-12, but we felt what was truly needed was to help children dig deep and really get under the skin of the life skills that would protect their mental well-being, before hitting secondary school.
We recognised a need for a structured method of helping kids navigate their emotions and helping parents touch on the conversations and themes that are critical to good hardiness, good mental health, and positive emotional development.
If we don’t address this now, mental health issues will continue increasing and children will not be able to adapt to the big changes that the world is going through.
3) I was really interested in the order the life skills were in, but not surprised to see ‘knowing yourself’ was first! Why do you think children find it so hard to ‘know’ themselves?
It’s great that you looked at the order of the life skills as it is indeed important! Each skill builds on the previous skills to delve deeper in metacognition (our ability to be aware of our thoughts) and new knowledge. And as you rightly say, ‘knowing yourself’ should come first! We would argue that it’s difficult for all people to know themselves. We see so many adults who still struggle to know what their needs are and what is really important to them, so they often start their personal development in their thirties or even their forties. This is a long process as it’s experiences of life that allow us to know what is important to us and what we like and don’t like and the development of our metacognition. And given that children are just starting to develop their metacognition from age 6, this is why it’s still difficult for them to know themselves.
4) Which is the ‘life skill’ you most enjoyed creating a chapter on?
My favourite is the Power of Interoception. Firstly because it’s our sixth sense and few are aware of it and of the fact that it’s something that we need to develop. And secondly because it is a life skill that I am still learning to develop because my feelings were regularly dismissed when I was young so I didn’t learn to identify them in my body and to realise how much they affect everything I do.
5) How long would you expect a child to take to complete the activities?
This is a difficult question! It really depends on each activity, on the maturity of the child and on how ‘deep’ they want to go. For example, a child who really wants to know themselves could spend a lot longer thinking about everything they like or don’t like, and a child who really likes observing could spend a long time observing their family or friends as we ask them to be detectives of other people’s reactions too!
6) Finally, what is the most important thing a child can take away from this book?
When developing the idea for the HAPPY CONFIDENT ME LIFE SKILLS JOURNAL we spent a lot of time thinking about how we could make the process of self-exploration as engaging and tangible as possible. We wanted this to be more than a book, we wanted it to be an experience; something that kids could draw upon to learn about themselves, to help them understand their emotions, not just what they feel but where these feeling come from and how to ultimately manage feelings in a healthy productive way.
We hope that through learning these life skills and these experiential activities every child will become a better human being, better able to relate to themselves and to others. And as you are asking what is THE most important thing, we would hope that every child who reads this and does the activities will develop a sense that they can take on any challenge in life because they know that they have a toolkit to deal with these and that they can learn from any mistake and bounce back from any disappointment.
If this sounds like a book you want on your shelf, buy it here.
📚 Book gifted by publisher.