Happiness at home is knowing the strengths of your family members

Happiness at home is knowing the strengths of your family members

Dr. Karen Reivich, who regularly writes for Fishful Thinking, focuses and writes some great stuff for parents looking to apply the principles of positive psychology to bring more happiness and resilience to their children and families. In this, her latest newsletter, she writes about finding happiness as a family by identifying and recognising each other’s strengths. Read on and enjoy…

August is a time for cookouts and long lazy afternoons hanging out with family. In most families, those afternoons include the sharing of family stories: funny moments from the past, challenges that were confronted, successes and setbacks. We can use these opportunities to develop our children’s sense of empowerment — their knowledge of their character strengths — who they are at their best, and who their family is at its best.

A fun way to do this is to create a Strength Family Tree. Get a piece of large poster board and some markers and draw a family tree. Fill in as many relatives as you can, and then for each relative, share a story that reflects one of his or her top character strengths such as bravery, gratitude, kindness, fairness, spirituality, integrity, etc. (see below for a list of common character strengths and their definitions.) Record the strength stories on index cards and tape them under the family member’s name. Start by trying to get one strength story per family member. Of course, this might mean inviting those family members over to hear their stories firsthand! This can become an ongoing family project and over time you will find that you have many, many stories of strengths that capture your family at its best.

As you share strength stories, be specific about how the family member used his or her strength. For example, I wrote a story about my son Jacob, and how, in first grade, he used his strength of kindness to reach out to a child who was not well liked by his peers by asking that boy if he wanted to join in a game of _ã–duck, duck, goose._㝠When we share strength stories and focus on how we use our strengths, we are teaching our children to value the strengths they have and to pull on those strengths to reach goals, overcome setbacks and build strong relationships.  

*From Character Strengths And Virtues: A Handbook & Classicization, by Chris Peterson & Martin Seligman (2004)

Bravery _ã_ Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right despite opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular
Creativity _ã_ Thinking of novel and productive ways to do things; not limited to artistic achievement
Curiosity _ã_ Interested in experience; finding subjects/topics fascinating; exploring, discovering
Fairness _ã_ Treating all people equally; not letting personal feelings bias decisions; giving people a fair chance
Forgiveness & mercy _ã_ Forgiving those who have done wrong; not being vengeful
Gratitude _ã_ Being aware of and thankful for good things that happen; expressing thanks
Hope _ã_ Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it
Humor _ã_ Liking to laugh and joke; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the lighter side
Integrity _ã_ Speaking the truth; presenting oneself in a genuine way; taking responsibility for one_ã_s feelings and actions
Judgment _ã_ Examining things from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one_ã_s mind in light of evidence
Kindness _ã_ Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping and taking care of people
Persistence _ã_ Finishing pleasure in what one starts; going on despite obstacles; pleasure in completing tasks
Prudence _ã_ Being careful about one_ã_s choice; not taking undue risks
Social intelligence _ã_ Being aware of the motives and feelings of others and oneself; knowing how to fit into social situations
Spirituality _ã_ Having beliefs about a higher purpose; seeing a larger scheme to life; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort