Therapeutic Writing Facilitation:
KnewMeJournaling Instructor, Laurie Benson, offers therapeutic writing courses for people who want to get to know themselves through the power of the pen. Great workshops for timid journal writers, future poets who know that poems don't have to rhyme, and people who are recovering from trauma. Also a wonderful way to take time for yourself to write your stories with support from a trained facilitator.
Here's a way to become a KnewYou with this article and activities from KnewMeJournaling. It's perfect timing...a few weeks before school starts. Are you worried about these things? Here are some great ideas to help you and your child navigate these very normal human issues. Give it a minute for me, will you? Let's write about it.
low self esteem
This week I have been writing about why it is so difficult for me to accept compliments. When someone calls me, "The Amazing Laurie Benson," I feel like there is a great expectation for me to do something for them that isn't possible for me to do. I feel like I'm being emotionally manipulated, and I don't like that.
I have a wand that I keep in my classroom. The wand is from Universal Studios (yep, I paid the money to pretend I was magic) and it is Neville Longbottom's wand. I chose his wand because he shares birthdays with the Jesus Christ of J.K. Rowling's, Harry Potter, but many people don't know that.
He was raised by his grandmother because he was orphaned as a child, much like the famous Harry. His parents weren't killed, they were driven to insanity. They couldn't take care of him anymore. I'm a grandma now, and I watched my adorable and perfect grandchild for 3 nights this summer. I didn't go on any summer vacation, I chose that to be my vacation. We went kayaking, to the park, painted the sidewalk with water, watched cement trucks, and ate ice cream. He is a great sleeper, potty trained, eats well, and expresses his love for me with hugs and kisses. Even so, at the end of the three nights both of us were ready for his mom and dad to take over. He could tell that I was exhausted. I'm a good grandma, but I don't want to raise my grandchild. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been for Augusta Snub, Neville's grandmother, who thought he was defective (a squib) because he didn't show much aptitude for magic. Wow, what a tough thing to have to perform as a child, and I thought potty training was hard!
In a few days, it will be the anniversary of my grandma Zelda's birthday. She was named Zelda before the popular video game came out...long before, but it was still a cool name. One day, I hope that I have a granddaughter named Zelda. Grandma might not have liked her name. I wonder if Neville Longbottom liked his name. Names can be hard on kids at school. Kids can find ways to make fun of any type of name, and it doesn't take much of an imagination to find ways to rearrange and change, "Longbottom," into several other names that can cause shame.
In the end (spoiler alert) Dumbledore was killed and Death Eaters had Hogwarts under their control. Neville fought against them. He tried to steal the Sword of Gryffindor from Headmaster Snape's office. He was very brave in battle at Hogwarts. He even killed Nagini, the last of Voldemort´s Horcruxes. A true hero. A hero that no one celebrates, or really understands because his name is not Harry Potter.
Neville is very forgetful and insecure. He has a low self esteem, but he really grows into himself, recognizing the strengths that he has, even when no one else notices those strengths. They are looking at the more interesting, exciting, extreme behaviors of other people. I relate to Neville, because over time, I have grown into myself. It has taken fifty-six years, and there is still time.
Neville became a teacher. That's pretty amazing because some of his teachers were incredibly mean to him, not giving him the time or space to find his talents, but expecting him to be good at things that hadn't been taught to him yet. He didn't like teachers who made fun of other students. This gave him anxiety. I can relate to that.
When I was in the sixth grade there was a girl that was a lot of fun to hang out with. She was edgy, athletic and confident. One day at recess, some boys were taunting her. In self-defense (we didn't carry wands at our school) she flipped the bird. The boys told our teacher, who promptly marched the student to the front of the room and told the class what a bad girl she must be to behave in this way. She encouraged us to stay away from her, her bad influence might, "rub off on us." That day I watched my confident friend's face fill with shame, eyes downcast and tears dropping to the ground. That was the day I decided to become a teacher.
Before you compliment your child with absolutes (using the words, "best, worst, unique, most athletic, superstar, smartest) you might listen to this talk about taking care of our emotional health. It's long, but quite entertaining and enlightening. It even talks about Dobby, the house elf, who now has a scientific experiment named for his head-banging behaviors. Psychologists have proven now that giving compliments can make a person actually perform worse and feel shame. You are not actually helping your child or your child's teacher if you think they are perfect. It's probably just that you want them to be. Why would you want a perfect child or perfect teacher? Because you are afraid. Afraid of choices your child might make, or experiences they might have, that hurt them. Going through trial makes you stronger. Not being the, "best of the best of the best" (Men In Black) helps you to learn how to study and work hard. So what's a parent to do?
Give specific feedback. Listen more and talk less. Stop judging your child or your child's teacher against other children and other teachers. Who knows, your little Harry Potter might not like being, "the chosen one." He might rise above, even without you knowing it, to become just another kid in the world...even if he's a very lonely kid who has lots of anxiety, to become a teacher of herbology and have a nice wife instead of saving the world from pretend demons. He might be a Neville.
What if Neville was a verb? What if it meant resilient? What if it meant hard-working, willing to own a toad instead of an owl? What if it meant successful when no one was noticing? What if being Neville meant that you didn't become an addict or alcoholic because you weren't complimented so often, or noticed for perfectionism, that you didn't have to numb your feelings, or pretend. What if Neville meant normal, or nice. Just another kid in the world who ends up being ok, which is really what we all want in the end. At least, I do.
Promote Neville behavior. He was not a super hero. He's not even real, but your kid is, and you are. Let's be real. Let's be Neville.
This guy (link at the bottom) is a real psychologist (I'm not, even though sometimes I write like I am) and if you listen to his talk, he'll give you some writing prompts at the end that will help heal your emotional body. Maybe you'll even be able to take a compliment! Maybe you'll name your first born, Neville. Maybe you'll send your kid to school with real esteem, instead of inflated or deflated sense of self. Let's give it a try. Pick up a pen. I'm going to try the writing assignments and thank my parents for letting me be just another girl in the world, and letting that be enough.
And if you did name your kid, "Harry?" What if Harry meant human? Let yourself and your kids be human. Humans make mistakes, and that's what life is all about.