3 Practical Ways to Introduce Character Strengths to Kids
What do all children need to live a satisfying life? Research shows us that character — not beauty, high test scores, or wealth — lead to increased wellbeing. Fourteen out of the 24 character strengths correlate significantly with life satisfaction. Children and young adults could significantly benefit from leaning into their character strengths, but if you’ve worked with these populations in the past, you know how difficult it can be to add one more thing to your never-ending to-do list.
That’s why integrating character strengths into your existing programs can be so meaningful. Every day, opportunities abound for students to develop hope, fairness, kindness, social intelligence, and many other strengths that lead to fulfilling lives. Dr. Neal Mayerson claims that cultures of collaboration, confidence, mutual respect, and engagement help nurture the development of character. So, how can you integrate strengths into your programs?
- Have the children in your life take the VIA Survey Give your students, kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, and all the beautiful children you know the language to say what’s best about them and their peers. Have a conversation about their strengths and how they show up in their lives.
- Encourage Strengths When You Can Being able to see and celebrate a person’s strengths helps us relate and communicate in ways that inspire mutual appreciation. Know a child who constantly asks questions? How about a kid who loves being the class clown? Being able to see these as the strengths they are (curiosity, humor) will build empathy, connection, and a child’s self-worth!
- Give Strength-Spotting Activities For youth programs, have students strength-spot each other, and mix it up. For one week, ask them to strength-spot someone they don’t talk to often. The next week, ask them to strength-spot their friends. Turn it into a fun game to “catch” someone doing something good!
What is the impact of integrating character strengths into student programs?
Students who know and understand character strengths build their understanding of themselves, and this can have various positive impacts.
- Recognize and appreciate strengths in themselves. For children and young adults, being able to see the positives and what’s strong in them is foundational to healthy self-esteem. Having a positive view of themselves can boost their ability to connect, form and mantain relationships, and become happier, well-adjusted adults.
- Articulate which environment works best. The ability to know what environments and activities work best for your strengths is a life-long skill to learn. If you’re high in bravery, an environment that prizes risk-avoidance or low-risk may not be the the best for you. If you’re high in creativity, that may be why a pencil-and-paper, routine environment may not be the right fit. Students can use this in not only the classroom but also take that knowledge into their workforces as they grow older. Knowing which position, roles, and field is going to be best for you is a strength that students will take with them into their future.
- Hold a Balanced Perspective of Themselves For many students, their deficits are the things they hear most about in life. By balancing that knowledge with what’s good about them, students have the opportunity to view themselves (and their peers) as humans who have various gifts, skill levels, and strengths: all of which are necessary.
As Director of Impact at ArtWorks Cincinnati, Amy oversees youth programming including enrichment, education, and hiring. Prior to joining the ArtWorks team, Amy worked in the Admissions Department of the Art Academy of Cincinnati as the Lead Admissions Counselor and High School Visit Coordinator. Amy also attended the Art Academy of Cincinnati earning a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Sculpture, in 2010. She is also a graduate of ArtWorks Co.Starters program where Pull Club Studio, a girl-powered printmaking studio was born. Amy is passionate about public art, place keeping, and engaging young, emerging and student artists.