This post originally appeared on Be Well.
Much of my work as a holistic pediatrician these days is focused on empowering parents to grow healthy, resilient children in body, mind, and spirit. The basis of this empowerment lies in our ability to connect effectively to the world around us. When disconnected, all the physical and mental alarms go off, and that can make us feel sick.
The path to restoring healthy connection begins by understanding who your child is. This self-knowing is not about judgments, labels, or diagnoses. One size doesn’t fit all children. Each of us has an inner hero waiting to emerge. This core power or natural affinity is our personal style that we use to connect and adapt to the world or change. I call this our “secret power.” It’s a secret until we can share it with the world. And the only way to share it is to grow it. Through healthy connections with the other powers that exist around us, any child can become a true hero. When disconnected, we become victims of circumstances. Based on the ancient wisdom of Chinese medicine, there are five archetypal heroes:
1. The Wood hero has a natural sense of vision, motivated by freedom that seeks challenges in order to encourage others.
2. The Fire hero has a natural sense of joy and optimism, motivated by intuition that inspires others to look on the bright side.
3. The Earth hero has a natural sense of teamwork, motivated by empathy that creates healthy community with others.
4. The Gold hero has a natural sense of order, motivated by grace that creates beauty with others.
5. The Water hero has a natural sense of calm, motivated by introspection, that brings deep meaning to others.
To discover which power your child is most strongly connected to and which is the weakest connection, consult Tournesol Kids’ assessment.
Empowerment comes when we connect to all five powers in order to face any challenge like a true hero. At Tournesol Kids I’ve developed a series of 52 simple games that you can play with your children to help them grow their power. Here are five essential games to play that will expand your child’s self awareness, improve their attention, and support healthy connections with the world.
1. Water power: connecting this and that
Seeing the way things are the same expands our ability to see the big picture using analogy, one of our most important executive functions that helps us solve problems creatively. When we think outside the box, we see connections between things that enable us to appreciate new perspectives and face challenges heroically.
Ask your child to choose two objects in the room. Come up with three ways the two objects are the same. Next choose two objects for your child and have them try to find three ways they’re the same. Players take turns until one player gets stumped. If the other player can find a way the two objects are the same, they win.
2. Wood power: connecting the present to the future
Being able to envision the future is one of our greatest human skills. It’s how we evolved to adapt to change. We all need a little wood power to help motivate us. But remember, the true hero always has a backup plan. That’s what helps us stay flexible and persevere when life throws unexpected challenges at us.
Create a map of tomorrow with your child that tracks the day tomorrow. Don’t forget to build in some back up plans in case things don’t go according to plan. See how far your child can see ahead. Have your child use the map during the next day and see how well they can track where they are and where they’re going.
3. Fire power: connecting words to your heart
Feelings are like the weather inside us. Research has shown that the more we practice naming the mix of feelings we’re having, the better we are at managing them.
Create a mood meter with your child. On one end, label it as super happy. At the other end, super sad. Then ask where along the spectrum of intensity your child would place as many feelings as you can think of: mad, worried, excited, proud, surprised, bored etc. Have them color in the shades of feelings. Try using their mood meter to help connect to the strong emotions they are having. Have your child try using their mood-meter to describe the mixed feelings they had on a particular occasion in the recent past.
4. Earth power: connecting feelings to your needs
Healthy communication grows with our ability to connect what we’re feeling to our individual needs at any given time. This reduces the habit of blaming others for our feelings and is the basis of empathy.
Make a list of challenges you know your child may be struggling with. Have your child choose one. Then ask them what feelings they have when facing that challenge, and what those feelings are telling them they need in order to feel like a hero. This simple exercise humanizes any challenge and helps a child shift from fixed-mind thinking to growth-mind, one of the keys to success.
5. Gold power: connecting space to grace
Grace is a deep sense of continuity and gratitude that enhances our life and helps us feel safe in times of great change. Research has shown how gratitude improves academic success by increasing patience and tolerance, reducing impulsivity, and supporting flexibility in the face of challenges.
Have your child create a sacred space in the home that honors the deep connections to their spiritual power. Create a five-minute sacred break during the day or during difficult times to breathe together and give thanks in this sacred space.
To discover more games to play with your children that will empower their connections to their inner hero, go to the Tournesol Kids Kickstarter campaign. Tournesol Kids was established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2016 to provide educators and parents with the tools necessary to nurture a child’s comprehensive physical, emotional, and cognitive wellbeing. Our mission is to empower children with strategies to live healthy, resilient, and successful lives. We envision a world where all children are heroes, inspired to grow and discover wellbeing by celebrating their unique powers and learning to share them with the world.