We are surrounded by many different cultures—not only cultures from other countries—but also the different mini-cultures found in families, schools, communities and workplaces. Each of these cultures may emphasise different strengths—for example, ‘standing out’ may be admired in one setting, while in another, ‘blending in’ may be highly prized.
Learning to recognise the strengths that are emphasised in our own cultures and those of others is part of developing ‘strengths literacy’. And sometimes a person’s strengths may run counter to a culture they are part of. That can be very tough; it is easy to feel like an outsider. But recognising strengths that are invisible to a dominant culture is a very important part of developing healthy self-esteem … and an equitable society!
When talking with children about strengths, it’s good to find simple and fun ways to express what a ‘strength’ is! For example, you might talk about a strength as
- a good thing
- a special thing
- a thing that makes your heart feel good
- something that makes you feel safe and friendly and strong
- something you are really good at
- something that someone else is really good at
- something you are learning and getting better and better at
- something that helped you learn to do something you couldn’t do before—but now you can!
Children thrive when their strengths are valued. Often, the weight of a ‘problem’ can lift considerably when we think of it as a strength yet to be developed. For these reasons many family counsellors, welfare coordinators and support workers encourage parents and carers to reflect on the importance of noticing children’s strengths. Questions to explore include:
- What are the child’s strengths?
- What difference might it make if I name them?
- Am I in the habit of celebrating the strengths of the children around me?
- How do the child’s strengths make a positive difference to us all?
- Do I celebrate my own strengths?
Looking for strengths and fostering ‘strengths cultures’ in our friendships, families, communities and classrooms means actively creating environments and opportunities where strengths are noticed and encouraged. A very important part of this is building the vocabulary needed to speak about strengths—building a ‘strengths literacy’, so to speak.
What activities do you use to support the children in your world to develop their ‘strengths literacy’?