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Helping children ‘find their voice’

I like to think of confidence and anxiety as both existing on the same continuum. At one end you have the confident child who understands their strengths and limitations but feels comfortable in their own skin. This does not mean they are extroverts; extroverts don’t have the monopoly on confidence. They do however value themselves and the unique contribution they bring to their family and wider friendship groups, and as a result they are often more resilient to the day to day stresses which life’s challenges bring. At the other end of the continuum you have the child who has little confidence in their ability to succeed at almost everything, they feel of little value, cannot articulate why friends like them, and as a result are more likely to worry about ordinary day to day challenges, which others handle with relative ease, and have a tendency to become anxious. Needless to say children, and adults too, can move along this continuum depending on the day, activity, and the situation they find themselves in.

One of the the distinguishing features of a confident, resilient child, is their ability to regularly use their voice to express their thoughts, feelings, and frustration; something which anxious children or those lacking confidence really struggle with. Yet this is something which can be easily taught at home, therefore moving your child along the continuum to the more confident end. Here are my top three strategies to help your child find their voice:

​1. Wherever possible give your child choices
This can be as simple as whether they have peas and sweetcorn with their evening meal or peas and carrots. Encouraging your children to express their views creates independence of mind and thought, which promotes and accountability Emphasise also that with choices come responsibilies

​2. Encourage meal time discussions
​Use opportunities when everyone is seated around the table to talk about topics which promote individual views. This can be as simple as posing a question, where they have to express an opinion and put together a coherent argument. Don’t make it overly complicated, make it fun, for example “should chocolate be eaten for breakfast, or should parents be made to go to school to learn how to play Minecraft?”

​3. Set regular goals
Make it a family habit to set yourselves small manageable goals to achieve each month, or quarter. Encourage everyone to sit down together to discuss goals which aim to get your child, and you as their parent, that little bit closer to the person they want to become. For example if your child wants to be in the school football team they might give themselves a target of practicing goal kicking every day for 10 minutes for one month. If you, as their parent, want to be fitter, you might set a target of going for a run or walk 3 times a week for 30 minutes. What your child learns about themselves is given double weight by them observing you setting yourself goals, which you pursue with determination. So it’s a win win situatn

​Remembering confidence is a way of thinking and behaving which isn’t permanent is key to moving up the continuum

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