What is positive psychology?

In the past, the goal of psychology has been to relieve suffering and distress caused by mental illness and stress. However, is the absence of misery the most we can hope to achieve as humans? Many psychologists believe not, and that has led to the creation of a new movement commonly referred to as positive psychology. Within positive psychology, there are those that seek to flourish and be the best they can be.

The PERMA-H model

Mental health is a continuum that extends from illness through to wellbeing and flourishing. To help prevent mental illness, we should maintain our mental health, just like we would our physical health to prevent injuries. The PERMA-H model shows us that the areas we can focus on to increase our mental health. These pillars of mental health are; Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaningfulness, Accomplishment, and Health.

Not only can flourishing be measured scientifically, but there are a range of experimentally validated methods already designed to help individuals grow and achieve optimal wellbeing. Similar to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is used to remediate mental illnesses and stress, positive psychology exercises can be taught, and with diligence and homework, improve an individual’s wellbeing. Many of these exercises are simple, take little time to do, and can create immediate results.

Challenges of parenting teens today

The following are just some of the challenges that are relevant to parenting teenagers today:

  • We live in a rapidly changing world – a global society that is connected through online technology that is constantly evolving. We are still trying to understand how all the recent technological advances will impact on younger generations – your children.
  • Technology influences the way our children interact with people and the wider world. It can include being constantly distracted; having a preference for online relationships versus face to face; video games addiction; cyberbullying; and the negative impact of regular exposure to unrealistic images of what a ‘normal’ life and body looks like.
  • There are many different parenting labels – helicopter parents, tiger Mums, free-range parenting – which reflect differences in discipline, supervision and attachment styles. So how do you find the balance?
  • Teenagers are taking longer to start “adulting” with many living in their parents’ home well  into their adult years, and longer than previous generations.
  • There is a changing work landscape, with an estimate that workers in the future could have 17 changes on average in employers over their lifetime. This will require young people to learn different skill sets, ones that are transferable across jobs and careers.

Adolescence is a time of massive physiological, mental and emotional changes. An adolescent brain is essentially ‘under construction’! There are physiological differences between an adolescent and adult brain, until about age 25, with these changes causing challenges for young people. These include higher emotionality, greater risk-taking, strong dependence on peer approval and many other things that can be particularly stressful and worrying for parents.

These changes can necessitate a change in parenting style. In the early years, parents often take on a type of ‘manager’ role with their children, controlling many aspects of their child’s life including their hobbies, homework, clothing, food, relationships etc. But when adolescence hits, parents essentially get fired as a manager! Your task as a parent of an adolescent is to instead be re-hired as a ‘consultant’. Continuing to act as a manager is likely to result in protest and rebellion, loudly or silently, causing a communication rift. As a parent, you do still need to set the boundaries, but by honing your skills as a newly hired consultant, you may find you can continue to have a positive influence on your child and continue to enjoy a healthy and positive relationship with them.

Bringing up children will likely be the most complex, yet also rewarding, job you’ll ever have. It’s never too late to think about what is important to you in your role as a parent and fine-tune how you approach this most significant role.

Wellbeing science can help you to navigate this change in your parenting role, help you to cultivate your own wellbeing, whilst also upskilling your teen with their own wellbeing skills for the future. The FAS resources can help you to achieve this.

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