Last year, my daughter Selma got a wonderful gift for her birthday – an activity book called ‘Life Skills 1’ by Shahnaz Bahman. As we started to work on it with her, I realised its worth. This activity book, although looks simple when you first look at it, is a gem. It helps children connect with their emotions and teaches them crucial life skills that no school teaches these days.
As fate would have it, I ended up meeting its author on several occasions. Every time I see her, I remember that workbook and I make a note to myself to ask her about the idea behind it.
Finally, we meet up
Last week, I finally met up with Shahnaz and we had our long-awaited chat. It was so refreshing to see someone with such a passion for kids health. Emotional health that is. She is currently working with Bahrain’s EDB (Economic Development Board) to improve Bahrain’s education system. Over the years, she has worked with helping children develop their emotional intelligence. Among other things, she was a principal at a private school where she introduced a whole module called ‘Life Skills’ to the lucky kids there; and she has also co-authored a book called Developing Children’s Emotional Intelligence (Continuum Education) along with her two activity books – Life Skills 1 & 2.
Emotional Intelligence, or EQ as it’s called, is the forgotten skill that most schools do not teach. Of course it can be applied to adults and kids alike. For kids, it helps them connect with their emotions. It helps them develop social skills and empathy. It helps parents and teachers understand kids better. And a lot more….
Our chat helped me learn a lot more about kids’ emotional health. I love this kind of stuff! And I love to try out some of the theories on my own kids!
Our ‘Emotional’ Experiment
Here is one of the things that we started doing this week as a result:
We now have a weekly ‘family meeting’ where we sit at the table all of us (myself, my husband, and the kids – except the baby of course) and we talk about the week. We created our own layout for the meeting, which at the moment includes talking about
- One thing that made us happy this week
- One thing that made us uncomfortable or a problem/issue
- And one suggestion
So we go around the table and ask each person (including the adults) to talk about the items above. For example, I said that what made me happy this week was the fact that I was getting better at communicating with my kids; what made me uncomfortable was the fact that my parents are out of town and I miss them (of course, we have to keep our answers as PG as possible to avoid unloading our emotional baggage on the kids); and I had one suggestion which was to go out to lunch that day. And we continued until we heard everybody’s answers.
Now we have (based on Shahnaz’s suggestion) a blank paper on the fridge which is next week’s “agenda”. When any member of the family has an issue that they would like to discuss during the weekly meeting, they just jot it down on the paper on the fridge and we go through the items one by one at the meeting. Apparently, with time, the kids will start to feel more comfortable and secure during meetings and they will open up more. These meetings will help them feel that their voice is heard and that their opinion matters; and it will also help us pick up any issues early (I hope).
The most important part of the meeting..
What’s very important in the meetings is that we don’t judge each person’s contribution. We just listen. AND (and this is the toughest part for me as a parent), we should not provide solutions for the problems! We just listen and try to help the child think out loud. We ‘coach’ him to find his own solutions. This way he can solve his own problems in the future.
Oh and guess what? We also keep ‘minutes’ for the meeting. So this week’s minutes has ‘Ben 10 DVD’ as Laith’s most exciting thing of the week 🙂
We’re all very excited! The kids were very confused at the beginning but got the hang of it eventually and seem happy going with the flow…
We’re still testing this out, so I’ll keep you posted on how it’s coming along.
Shahnaz, if you’re reading this and you have any additions to what I just said, please leave it for the readers in the ‘comment’ section below.
Here’s Shahnaz’s book link again Developing Children’s Emotional Intelligence (Continuum Education)
I’m not sure where you can get hold of the Life Skills 1 & 2 activity books, but I can find out for you. If you’re interested in those, leave a comment below.
I’m not done yet!
As a bonus, I also found out that Shahnaz took my advice and started avoiding dairy products. I had written about this before in my previous post Life After Cheese. She was a huge cheese fan but she decided to take my theory for a test-drive. Here’s what she said:
“Dear Alia, Thank you for explaining the negative effects of dairy products to me. I’ve been suffering from a kind of foggy brain for quite long time. At first I thought perhaps it is psychological . I was working hard to clear my mind ,doing meditation, exercising or going for walks . They all helped for a while, but soon the symptoms were back. This was really disturbing me. However, after our meeting, your words worked like magic!! Next day, I decided to stop all dairy products. The shift was not difficult at all and the results were AMAZING. I now feel very relaxed, focused and I can spend hours doing high demanding tasks with no problem at all. Tonight ,I finished editing four chapters of my Life Skills 2 book with a clear mind and a very relaxed mood. There is no way that I would go back to using any dairy products again . I can assure you that!” Shahnaz Bahman (Author & Educational Consultant)
Why don’t you give it a try too? Replace your cheeses with hummus, olive paste, or mashed avocados. Replace your milk with yummy home-made almond milk.
Here’s my dairy argument again Life After Cheese. It’s just an idea that I’m throwing out there. See what you think!
Enjoy your weekly meetings!
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