Having recently returned from the Second Australian Positive Psychology in Education Symposium I am buoyed by the passion and commitment of the educators, psychologist, counsellors, coaches and practitioners that attended. This article will focus on some of the key takeaways from the Symposium and how we can integrate this into our parenting.

Positive psychology finds its roots in the humanistic psychology of the 20th century, which focused heavily on happiness and fulfilment. It is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.

Recent research in the field of positive psychology provides many useful tools that promote good mental health and these same tools can be used to improve parenting and provide children with the tools they need to succeed and enjoy a strong sense of well being and contentment throughout life.

Parenting can be one of life’s greatest pleasures as well as its greatest challenges and the way we parent can dramatically affect the well- being of both the parents and the children. Martin Seligman, in his recently published book Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness, Well-being - and How to Achieve Them, advances the theory of well-being by focusing on five pillars: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment (PERMA). The five pillars of well being, when applied to the parenting domain, can lead to flourishing families.

Following are the first of the five pillars

1.Positive Emotions

Barbara L. Fredrickson Professor of Psychology and a leading scholar in the field of research on positive emotions, explains how positive emotions can make us flourish.

According to her, positive emotions are deep felt emotions like love, joy, gratitude, interest, and hope. While negative emotions close our minds down, positive emotions open them up. There is a tipping point in the ratio of positive to negative emotions, at which languishing in life can turn into flourishing. This tipping point is 3:1. Three positive emotions to one negative emotion. However, most people in western countries only have 2:1.

When we experience positive emotions such as love, happiness, gratitude, curiosity, etc, we actually build psychological resources. We become more optimistic, more aware of the good that is in our lives, and more able to focus on the positive aspects we experience. Additionally, we cultivate better social relationships from these positive emotions. People are attracted to positive, happy people. Our social resources are built.

These accumulated resources from our positive emotions become a reservoir that we can dip into when times get tough. The deeper the reservoir, the less impact that setbacks in our lives have over the long term.

Of course, setbacks and negative experiences are real and should be acknowledged. They should be lived through. Meaning and purpose can be gained from them. Negative emotions are an important part of living a 'whole' life. But they don't have to become the characteristic way in which we view the world. Instead, our positive emotions can actually foster our resilience and help us, and our families, bounce back from hardships quickly and optimistically.

Here are a few ideas for fostering positive emotions:

1. Savour

Encourage your children to 'savour' their experiences by really being in the moment with them. Have them identify exactly what is going on, how it makes them feel, and why it's so good!

2. Be Grateful

So much research tells us that gratitude is a powerful emotion. It has been said that gratitude is the mother of all virtues. Ask your family what they're grateful for, regularly, and talk about why.

3. Be Optimistic

When we feel positively about our future, we can move ahead with confidence. I love to ask my children what they're looking forward to in the coming day or week. There's always something they can't wait to do. This is a terrific antidote to depression and negative emotions. When we're excited about the future we have a reason to keep going, to bounce back from challenging situations, and to develop resilience.

Martin Seligman: Flourish
Barbara L. Fredrickson: Broaden & Build Theory
Justin Coulson Happy Families

Author's Bio: 

Tracy Tresidder MEd, PCC is an ICF professionally certified coach. She specialises in working with parents and teens. Parents - learn how to assist your children to build lives of confidence, courage and compassion. Discover the seven simple steps to create a mutually loving and respectful relationship with your teenager. Go to www.coaching4teenagers.com.au to see the programs that are available now. Tracy is also the Director of Professional Standards for ICF Australasia and an ICF Assessor and Mentor Coach. Visit the website to see more of what she has to offer. www.tracytresidder.com Website