Cyma Shapiro Chats with Maureen Healy, author, Growing Happy Kids
Hello. I’m glad I’m interviewing you today. Your topic is near and dear to me, since I often feel like I’m failing my children when (despite strong support systems) we have daily chaos, unresolved issues and much tension in our house. Please tell me why you chose to write this book.
Thank you. I wrote this book, Growing Happy Kids, because it became clear to me that every child that begins life with a deeper sense of confidence (what I come to call inner confidence) has an easier path to become genuinely happier. It may sound simple but it’s not necessarily easy in practice, which is why I wanted to write this book and guide more people to experience ease in their life.
I was struck by a quote I read by you, “Selecting just the right words and saying them to your child has the power to strengthen them, and in today’s world, every child needs to be strong from the inside out.” It reminded me of the fact that as mothers, we also need to espouse this same framework. Can you speak more about this thought?
Sure. Every child so deeply listens to what we say to them, and by giving them encouraging words on a daily (not sporadic) basis we have the power to build inner strength and confidence. In the last chapter of Growing Happy Kids, I share daily prayers, affirmations, meditations, exercises and more so that as mothers we can do “our best” to nurture in children this deeper sense of confidence so they can go forward and lead their happiest lives.
What I’m most drawn to is your integration of western science with (Eastern) spiritual wisdom – a topic near and dear to me. Please tell me how you created this and the framework you utilize when providing counsel to children and families.
Within my practice, I work with parents and children around the United States on issues related to their emotional health (i.e. bullying, sadness, loss, and other upsets). I found western science to be very helpful in understanding the biology of child development and eastern wisdom extremely helpful in guiding children to make breakthroughs. If you didn’t know my background, you may never even realize that I draw on both fields because I do it in a universal way too.
Your five Building Blocks of Confidence captures the essence of your work. Please explain them to the reader.
In Growing Happy Kids, I present a model of how to cultivate confidence in children – from outer to inner confidence. The model is called “The Five Building Blocks of Confidence” that I have used for many years. Blocks are: Biology, Belief, Emotion, Social and Spiritual. I share how the blocks work interdependently and most importantly that confidence is merely a skill to master. Every adult and child can learn how to become more confident and ultimately happier.
While you address various aspects of childhood development – bullying situations, self esteem and confidence, loss (divorce, death) and depression, it appears as if you are most drawn to the “highly sensitive child” – a moniker, perhaps for the current wave of Indigo children, am I right? Why this focus?
Yes. I was a highly sensitive child and find in my practice — more and more highly sensitive children and their parents coming to me for assistance. I love it because I “get them” and guide them to experience greater ease, success and joy in their lives. Without an understanding of these kids, who they are and how to help them – we as adults, parents, teachers and friends often have a very challenging time.
You are also very perceptive. Highly sensitive is really a “code word” for many indigo children.
As midlife mothers, we, in particular, have many other external conflicts in our lives (perhaps divorce, blending families, aging parents, already established careers, peri/menopause, etc.) all of which create a myriad of other stressors which must be dealt with concurrently while raising our children. Can you talk about this phenomenon?
I love that mothers are having children later in life! I know these kids gain the benefit of your life experience, and hopefully – you’ve learned a technique or two to remain calm when things start to feel overwhelming (think: deep breathing, prayer, exercise). Of course, the other proven things to reduce stress include: Being connected to a community (Church, Center), Regular Exercise (sex included!) and daily time for yourself (even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom to pray!).
The truth of the matter is if you are an older or younger mother — there is going to be stress and learning how to healthfully handle it takes practice. We all know how to get to Carnegie Hall, right: practice, practice, practice. It’s really the same thing to feel calm amidst any storm.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t leave the reader with your ten specific action plans designed to create inner confidence and cultivate a sense of emotional strength for promulgating happiness in our children. I’ve actually printed them out; they are now posted in our kitchen! Would you like to add anything to this, for emphasis?
I invite everyone to get a free book excerpt from my new book, Growing Happy Kids at: www.growinghappykids.com/node/55
1. Build Confidence Daily (even for 5 minutes!): It is the everyday things we do with our children that help them feel stronger, and happier no matter what. So you may say affirmations together on the way to school (they are captive here!) or read a bedtime story every night that teaches about your child’s power within — the point is that small things done over and over again really build your child’s sense of strength.
2. Get Them Moving: Children need to move their bodies and get their energy released in a healthy way. Because physical activity, eating right, and a good night’s rest are the biological basis of your child’s emerging sense of self-confidence. Also, be sure they do something they love from making a garden to becoming a soccer star. (Let them pick it!)
3. Sign Them Up for 1 Weekly Confidence Building Activity: Your child’s weekly confidence building activity may be a sport like soccer or something else like singing lessons. Most importantly, they need to see themselves succeed (really important) and also have a regular way to see themselves master a task thus building outer then inner confidence.
4. See Success Together (visualize, affirm, meditate, pray, and sing): Oprah always says that if you can believe it, you can achieve it. So help your child believe more fully in him or herself. Perhaps it is doing affirmations together like “I love me” and “I am amazing in every way” or doing a guided meditation, singing a song that sparks them up or drawing a vision board. Let your creativity loose so you both become more self-assured. Have fun with this!!!
5. Get Inspired: Do something inspiring together whether it is going to see magnificent waterfalls, flying a new kite on the beach or learning hula-hooping. By doing something that lights your child up, they learn how to build a new skill and you’ll see their confidence soar.
6. Create an Uplifting Space: Decorate your child’s space so they see happy photos of themselves, their awards displayed, goals (or vision board) hung up and they have their favorite things all around them. By making the space feel good to your child they’ll realize this world is supporting them, their dreams can come true and everyone wants to see them succeed. (Feng Shui can help too!)
7. Play More: Happier children know the importance of play whether they are outdoors helping their parents’ garden or playing tag with their peers! So the more you help your child build skills, see their power within and play in their daily lives the happier they’ll be. I promise.
8. Learn Together: Become a student of happiness with your children and together you’ll learn the ways to become happier day-by-day! Perhaps you attend a class on meditation or volunteer together planting the seeds of real happiness.
9. Create a Ritual: One daily ritual I recommend to many parents is the “Family Journal” where each family member writes what they are thankful for everyday! By focusing on gratitude, you and your children develop a sense of strength and power that good things are happening.
10. Laugh More: Families that laugh together have been scientifically proven to be more resilient when faced with obstacles great or small. Do something today that brings a smile to you and your children’s faces!
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me – the pleasure was all mine!
Maureen Healy is a parenting and children’s emotional health expert with more than 20 years of global experience. Her new book, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness, is available wherever books are sold. More Info: www.growinghappykids.com or @mdhealy