How to Explain the Activity to your Children

(so they want to do it with you)

What is it that gets you curious about an activity? Is it the process or the outcome - perhaps it’s both? Unless you have a clear idea about what get’s your children’s interest (the process or the outcome), I’d invite you to consider selling both to them. Think then about what’s going to happen (the process) and why they’re going to want to be part of it and what the outcome will be (theirs, not yours).

Here’s something I might say (continue reading to see what to take into consideration):

I have something really fun for us to do together, it’s a way that I can get to know you better but I also think, you’ll get to know yourself better too. If I were to hold a mirror in front of you, what would you see and would you like what you see? What about everything about you that the mirror can’t show, like what you’re good at, how you love, how you hurt, what makes you cool and awesome? Sometimes we can feel pretty down about ourselves and it takes doing something like this to see that we’re not all that bad, in fact, we are quite amazing humans. How we see and feel about ourselves is called our self-esteem and if we can learn to see how great we are, we have more confidence/are more brave, we have more fun and we are more successful in what we like doing. Fancy giving it a go with me? There’s cutting and sticking and at the end, you’ve got something all about you to keep and put somewhere pride of place.

What I’d like you to do is (describe creative elements i.e. draw a mirror, draw you, cover this in tinfoil to make a mirror) and then, using/making speech bubbles, write down all the things that make you you and I can help you with what that means once we get started.

Let’s break this down further:

Consider their age:

When working with children under the age of 8, I generally make this all about play. I show my interest in creating something and invite them to make something with me. In my role I can say ‘I’d like to get to know you better’ and whilst this may seem odd for you, is it really? Remember that children like to feel connected to us, they like to feel as though we value them and they like to feel special and important - telling your child that you’d like to get to know them better hits all their relational need points. Show them your resources too, you’ll have them hooked right there and then!

With older children, there may be something going on at school or at home which creates an opening for this activity to be really useful as opposed to just about fun i.e. you’ve noticed, and they may have communicated (verbally or behaviourally), that they’re struggling with their friendships or are feeling unloved/left out at the moment… You could own your thoughts about this, telling them that you’ve been thinking about them recently, and whilst you think they are awesome/loving/kind/funny, you think they’re struggling to believe this stuff and you have a perfect activity to help them out.

Using the word ‘self-esteem’ to explain the activity:

I am a big believer in using the language we want our children to be equipped with when they’re older, the language that makes communication direct and clear. If your child is too young to understand the concept i.e. calling it self-esteem and then describing it will lose them, then here are some examples:

  • what we like and don’t like about ourselves

  • why we think we’re awesome and things we’d like to change

  • the things that make us different to other people; what we look like, what we’re good at, what we need to try hard at

  • what makes us people our friends and family like to be around

If your child is older, try asking them what self-esteem means to them - I’m sure they will have heard it in school. If they are a little unclear, use the examples above to firm the idea for them. If you can go on to explain what you read about self-esteem yourself i.e. why it’s important and what good self-esteem offers us - go for it! They may not be able to digest it all, but it starts the dialogue for self-awareness and the idea that life doesn’t happen to us, there are things we can do to steer our life and meet our own needs. I was once working with an older client who really struggled to communicate who they thought they were, what their identity was and who they were to other people. This client had never had this kind of input from their parents and equally felt they didn’t know them well either. Sometimes we need to talk explicitly about things we take for granted, if we don’t, it can feel like a ‘thing’ instead of something we own - we feel like we have more power over what we own.

Share your experiences:

When you’re talking about the activity, why it’s important and/or why you want to do it, try and share your experiences. Children look to us for guidance and where this may feel alien for them, they will feel emotionally safer with it, if they know it’s about you too, that you have your own self-esteem/worth/value and that sometimes you’ve thought negatively. This is important for two reasons:

Click the image to download, keep and/or share.

Click the image to download, keep and/or share.

  1. They will learn that negative thoughts, feeling low and sad is OK and normal - because it happens to you too. This can be an assumption, that they naturally develop this belief but they do not (always). We must model what we want our children to do themselves. You may find now a good time to read this blog called Why being Real is Important when you're a Parent.

  2. It shows them that feelings are fluid. I love this saying so much I made it an Instagram post, that feelings can come, sit for a while and then they go.

Ask if they have any worries or questions about the activity:

The likelihood is that younger children will just want to dive straight in but older children may have some reservations about being so open with you. Not because they don’t feel like they can, but they may want to protect you, and themselves, from your emotions. This is something to anticipate and if it doesn’t come up, you could mention anyway. You can do it by sharing your own experiences again like ‘I would always find it hard to answer questions from my parents, I’d always wonder if it was a trick, that if I was honest I’d get into trouble or that I’d upset them, so I rarely shared my thoughts and feelings, but I kind of wish I had now’. Share how now you know that there’s no such thing as a problem too big or too small to share and that feelings are about caring, we feel because we care not because we are broken or damaged, it’s good to feel and good to remember that feelings don’t last forever.

Share your excitement and curiosity:

Be excited about what you’re about to do, if it’s serious it may feel threatening (emotionally) and they may not open up. Whilst it’s about their thoughts, feelings and beliefs, let them know that you want to do it with them, ask what they want you to help with, ask if you can stick that there so they feel it’s a co-creation.

Remember: this about connecting with your children, you don’t have to get this part perfect, or any part of this activity - you could even bypass all this and say you want to spend some time with them and you saw this great thing on the internet you’d like to do with them!

Next - we’re going to break down self-esteem to help them think about what makes them them.