Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Affirmations for Kids: The Good Night Game

Sometimes I feel goofy using affirmations.

Maybe you feel the same way?

But at the same time, it's easy to get caught in a loop in my own head and have a hard time breaking free. Especially when it comes to parenting.

My therapist recommended a new (to me) book called Growing Up Again (affiliate link) by Jean Illsley Clark and Connie Dawson. It has helped me SO much in so little time, not only in my own life but also as I learn to respond and nurture my kids. This book is GOLD and I'd love to talk about it in no less than 10,000 words, but I'll start small. 

One of my very favorite practical tools they offer in Growing Up Again is the Affirmations - positive phrases that "shore up" - that can be used for both adults and children. The authors' working definition of an Affirmation is "anything we say or do for others to let them know that we believe they are lovable and capable" (217).

Clarke and Dawson state:

"When we offer developmental affirmations to children, we offer powerful support that strengthens their ability to accomplish their developmental tasks successfully." (pg. 290)

Clarke and Dawson offer a quite a few different practical and helpful tips for working with affirmations, but I've been most interested in their Good Night Game and it is SO simple. 

The Good Night Game

Either copy and cut out, handwrite, or read straight from the book the affirmations that begin from Stage 1 all the way up to your child's specific developmental stage.

At bedtime, have each child pick three affirmations from a basket each night, and say these affirmations to the child as you tuck them into bed. Keep your affirmations in a basket that is easily accessible. As you repeat the affirmations to them while they are tucked snugly into bed, it's the last words they hear (hopefully! but with promises!) before they go to sleep.

An important note: "The affirmations we deliver MUST be sincere or they become crazy-making double-bind messages" (217, emphasis my own). So if you aren't completely comfortable speaking an affirmation and then letting your kids (or yourself!) live it out, then leave it out of the pile for now. 

Here are a few of my favorite affirmations for the different stages. Try them out for the Good Night Game, and pick up the book for yourself to get all of the affirmations for each life stage. 

Prenatal Stage (Becoming)

- I celebrate that you are alive
- We are connected and you are whole. 
- Your life is your own
- I love you just as you are

Stage 1, Birth to 6 months (Being)

- I'm glad you are alive. 
- You belong here.
- I love you and care for you willingly
- You can grow at your own pace

Stage 2, 6 months to 18 months (Doing)

- You can do things as many times as you need to. 
- You can be interested in everything 
- I like to watch you initiate and grow and learn
- I love you when you are active and when you are quiet. 

Stage 3, 18 months to 3 years (Thinking)

- I'm glad you are starting to think for yourself
- You can learn to think for yourself and I will think for myself 
- You can think and feel at the same time. 
- It's okay for you to be angry, and I won't let you hurt yourself or others

Stage 4, 3 years to 6 years (Identity and Power)

- You can explore who you are and find out who other people are. 
- You can be powerful and ask for help at the same time. 
- All of your feelings are okay with me. 
- I love who you are. 

Stage 5, 6 years to 12 years (Structure) 

- You can think before you say yes or no and learn from your mistakes
- You can learn when and how to disagree
- I love you even when we differ; I love growing with you
- You can learn the rules that help you live with others. 

Stage 6, 12 years to 19 years (Identity, Sexuality, and Separation) 

- You can know who you are and learn to practice skills for independence. 
- You can learn to use old skills in new ways
- I look forward to knowing you as an adult
- My love is always with you. I trust you to ask for my support. 

Stage 7, Adults (Interdependence)

- Your needs are important
- You can trust your inner wisdom
- You can be creative, competent, productive, and joyful. 
- You are lovable at every age. 
- Your love matures and expands

Stage 8, Toward Death (Integration)

- You can grow your whole life through. 
- You can share your wisdom in your way. 
- You are lovable just the way you are. 
- You deserve the support that you need. 

The authors offer more affirmation activities in the book, and the "ovals" that appropriate to the age you're working with are found in each different developmental section within the book. The ovals are tiny and not too pretty, so I took the ovals that pertained to my girls' age and printed them out on computer paper. Next step is to laminate them, if you want! I didn't have any lamination paper so I wrapped them in clear packing tape. Still, not so pretty, but a little better. I forgot to type in the developmental stage on the little slips so I went in with a sharpie after I taped them up and added the age stages on the back.

I'm hoping to put a little more time to beautify these cards because they'll be used for their entire childhood, and I've also had many friends asking about them! And these affirmations are for adults, too, so I'm going to experiment working with them as well. 

For adults, you use the affirmations starting from Prenatal stage on up. The book IS called Growing Up Again, so it is as much an adult guide as a parenting/child guide. No matter how amazing our parents were, they weren't perfect, and we all have gaps in our development. Every human receives uneven parenting in some way, because our parents are 100% human. This has been hard for me to accept as I walk my own parenting journey and it is a hard truth to accept - that we can't be perfect? Feels like a given, but we want the very best for our kids and it's part of my work to accept that I can't home-run their childhood like I want to. But, I can do my own work and do my best by them. Anyway...With compassion and attention, we can utilize the practices and skills in Growing Up Again to help fill in those holes.

I encourage you to try this exercise. It may feel funny at first, but "remember, experience is the architect of the brain." (pg 208)

Let me know how it goes!

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