If your child is feeling insecure and unhappy, one of the most helpful things you can do is introduce them to their inner strengths and teach them how to use them. In schools around the world where this has been taught to students, researchers found significant benefits to overall well-being, higher positive emotion, greater classroom engagement and higher engagement in school overall. I always felt, when I was teaching this in schools, that students’ home environments could either reinforce these lessons or completely undermine them. Ideally, there would be a coordinated effort between school and home. But whether or not your children’s schools are teaching them how to leverage their inner strengths, YOU can.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Become Aware – help your children learn their strengths by taking the free online validated VIA Assessment of Character Strengths (youth version) or by exploring those strengths in my free booklet, “24 Ways to See the Best in Every Child.” (Please see the advantages of each below.) 
  2. Explore – Talk about the many positive ways their top strengths already show up in their lives. With your help, they should be able to find several examples at school, at home, with their friends and/or doing the things they enjoy.
  3. Apply – This is where things get really empowering. When your kids are struggling with something, help them see how they can apply one or more of their top strengths to the situation. Problems with friends? How could kindness, social intelligence or love help? A big assignment? How could they leverage their curiosity, creativity, teamwork or ability to envision an awesome outcome?
  4. Appreciate — I encourage parents to do a what-went-well-and-why practice with their kids. It’s like a gratitude practice on steroids, because after recalling something that went well during the day, you discuss why it went well — specifically what each of you did to make those good things happen. This raises the idea that each of us has the ability to affect what happens to us, and each person’s strengths inevitably come up again and again, reinforcing what makes them unique and capable.
Your children’s top strengths are inner resources they will never run out of. You can remind them of these positive qualities whenever you see them using one. To really be empowering, tell them you respect or admire the way they used it.

Advantages of the VIA Assessment and the 24 Ways Booklet

I adore VIA and have used it for years, and encourage you to take it too. The only drawbacks to using it with kids right away stem from the fact that VIA results are printed in a list, from one’s highest strengths to lowest. While I’d love everyone to focus on their top strengths and all the ways their lives are rich and full of possibility, the truth is that almost everyone — of any age — who gets their list for the first time skims over their top strengths and goes right to the bottom, where they fixate on their “weaknesses” and beat themselves up or dig right into shame. On the other hand, using my booklet allows them to explore all 24 strengths, which is a nice way to learn about all of them while self-selecting top strengths. You can also explain that everyone has access to all 24 strengths, and that we can use any of them when we need to. Our top strengths are just the ones that come to us most naturally. Later, if you want, take the VIA Assessment for confirmation or to get the awesome, optional report that you can purchase for just $10 for kids and $20 for adults.  
Questions? Ideas? Please let me know below!