Singapore American School has long recognized the importance of supporting students in their social-emotional learning. Funded by the SAS Foundation, it is an integral and core component of our institution. From kindergarteners to adolescent learners, SAS psychologists and counselors take a proactive, child-centered and developmental approach in working with students as they embark on a journey of self-understanding, self-acceptance and self-compassion.
Promoting high self-concept is important because it relates to success and happiness as children learn to approach life with resilience. So how can parents support this journey and help their child develop a strong sense of self-identity? Here is some advice shared by SAS psychologists:
Encourage Exploration of Interests
Identity is about being able to find a sense of competence and confidence in the activity children are engaged in. Achieving a level of competence in an activity provides meaning and purpose for kids. Encourage your child to explore a number of varied interests. Start this from a young age and explore these with your child, allowing them to decide whether or not they wish to continue with an activity. These activities are important ways for your child to express who they are.
Recognize the Importance of Belonging
A sense of belonging is important to every child. Identity building includes being able to find a sense of connection to peers. This is a process of finding others that share similar views, values and interests. If children can’t find this sense of community, they will feel isolated. Allow your child to manage relationships and encourage them to solve any problems that may arise on their own, while seeking guidance when appropriate.
Establish Boundaries and Advocate Balance
Help your child recognize the importance of balance in life. Due to the busy pace of the modern world we live in, it is common for children – and adults – to overschedule their days, weeks and lives. Children need help with establishing boundaries as a lack of balance can lead to anxiety and stress. For example, when it comes to course selection, without guidance, many students are likely to over-select. If a teenager enrolls in too many Advanced Placement or Advanced Topic courses and fail, they often believe it’s because of their intelligence when, in fact, it has very little to do with intelligence and everything to do with balance.
Through self-advocacy children can develop effective life skills, including understanding and handling themselves, their relationships, their learning and work. While it is important to support and guide children, it is equally important that children develop the skills to make positive choices on their own. Encourage self-advocacy through these four key areas:
- Organization and Routine
Establish a routine at home and ensure your child can manage their own schedule. Prompt your child to assume responsibility for routine tasks, such as preparing their backpack for school or cleaning their bedroom. Do this with clear communication to ensure a mutual understanding. For example, work on a list together and define what constitutes a clean bedroom.
- Time Management
Help your child to understand what they are doing with their time. If your child is unable to complete tasks in a given day, feels overwhelmed, or is too tired to complete homework, consider how your child spent their day and if it was well-managed. Set clear bedtimes or check how many hours your child is dedicating to their smart phones or social media accounts.
- Task Initiation
Help your child to learn to stick to a task once they have started. Today many of us have phones that are never switched off. The repetitive buzzing sounds and vibrations can result in distraction or lack of adequate focus. Build a habit of time on/time off with your child. When it is time for homework, practice 20 minutes of focused attention, followed by an incentive of a 10-minute break. Remove any potential distractions during the focused moments. As your child gets older, increase the focus to 45 minutes on/15 minutes off.
- Emotional Regulation
It is important to help your child learn how to control their emotions. Your child will inevitably experience some form of stress through the course of life and, while this stress cannot be avoided, the management of emotions can. Be mindful of your child becoming ‘stuck’ in an emotion or wearing it as an excuse to behave negatively.
This article was created with contributions from Singapore American School psychologists Adrian Elmo, Cindy Gilbert, Kelsey Pierce, and Sarah Pisacano, as well as personal academic counselor Dr. Jeff Devens.