The following article is brought to us by guest blogger Courtney Pastor. Courtney is the communications coordinator for Corbett Preparatory School of IDS, a private PreK3-8 school in North Tampa.
You have plenty on your mind each day as a parent. You are trying to juggle schedules, plan healthy and appealing meals, conquer the laundry, manage school assignments and so much more. But how often do you check on the emotional health of your family?
Is the household happy? Do family members feel valued? What happens when bickering begins?
Taking time to look at the big picture of home life is important. However, it may seem like a luxury you don’t have amid the daily grind. But, establishing a supportive, safe environment deserves your attention. A simple exercise of developing a family charter can help your family. This activity helps your family to learn to manage conflict better, understand how everyone relates and provide strategies for tough times.
A family charter is an agreement that parents and children develop together. Rather than listing chores or responsibilities, a charter focuses on feelings. It clearly lays out how family members want to feel at home and what they can do to feel that way, leading to more positive relationships.
The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence introduced classroom charters to Corbett Prep in 2015. This was when the school began implementing the center’s RULER 1 program. RULER (Recognize, Understand, Label, Express and Regulate Emotions) builds upon many methods Corbett Prep uses to establish a climate of dignity and respect. It does this by giving students tools to identify and manage their emotions and interactions. In 2016, Yale selected Corbett Prep to pilot the RULER 2 curriculum. The RULER 2 program combines emotional intelligence with well being and mindfulness skills.
As part of Corbett Prep’s work with Yale, teachers ask students simple questions and use the answers to develop the class charter at the beginning of the school year. They hang the charter in the classroom and hold each other accountable for sticking to the common goals they set for themselves.
Using these questions, you can make your own charter for your family.
How do you want to feel in the family?
From PreK3 to 8th grade, students at Corbett Prep offered many of the same answers when asked how they wanted to feel in their classrooms. Respected, included, joyful and safe were common themes among students. At home, you can start by asking family members to make individual lists. Then review them to see what overlaps or inspires others.
How can you feel that way?
Pizza night or a new toy might make kids feel happy at that moment, but this question is about behavior that encourages positive feelings more often. For young kids, strategies can be as simple as saying please and thank you, using kind words or remembering the Golden Rule. Adults and older children may benefit from a charter reminding them to practice gratitude, share compliments and avoid interrupting others.
What can you do to live the charter?
Answers to this question should provide ways to address conflict or negative feelings. You may put on your list that your family needs to communicate when uncomfortable feelings arise or to apologize for missteps. PreK3 students suggested offering ice packs as a way to show friends they care. Third graders pointed out that humor may help when people seem sad. Other students mentioned that they needed to remember to accept sincere apologies when given and to take a break if they felt overwhelmed.
Input on the charter can and should come from everyone in your family. A family charter is more than a parent-driven list of household rules. The process is as important as the end result. Both adults and children will feel more invested in sticking to the charter if everyone played a part in creating it. And it helps put into perspective what’s most important – having a happy, healthy family.