Help Your Children Find Their Password to Unlock Their Potential

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
Healthy Minds
November 07, 2018

The theme of this year’s National School Psychology Awareness Week is “Unlock Potential. Find Your Password!” This theme emphasizes how we can each find our own “password,” or personal key for unlocking any number of challenges and opportunities in our lives. The goal is to highlight how identifying a strength word can assist students in unlocking resources, reaching potential, and developing proactive or preventative skills to thrive in school and life. A “password” can help us set goals to help create critical academic and social-emotional skills. Words such as “imagine,” “encourage,” “learn,” “connect,” and “contribute” are examples of passwords that can push us forward in developing those critical skills.

Unlocking potential can take many forms. It can mean taking action to speak up when bullying occurs, engaging in learning, trying a new activity or skill, cleaning up trash on the playground, doing something kind for a classmate or neighbor, or making new friends. These actions empower children, create compassion, strengthen connections, and build resiliency—all traits that are critical for academic and social–emotional success. Unlocking potential to grow as an individual and to make the world even a little bit better can have a long lasting impact.

There are many ways families can help children take action to make positive changes. As parents and caregivers, you can:

  1. Talk to your children about passwords to help them unlock potential—key words or phrases to help them take steps toward positive change. Password ideas include: dream, laugh, connect, imagine, create, encourage, share, listen, help, explore, try, speak up.
  2. Help your children develop positive relationships with peers and adults, and model respectful, caring behaviors with others.
  3. Help your children identify their strengths and interests, and learn new skills. Thinking about specific skills, assets, or characteristics can lead to positive growth. Emphasize that learning and growing require trying new things and that success comes from small steps to a long-term goal.
  4. Encourage goal setting and mapping out a plan for achieving the goals. Talk with your children about steps they have taken, what worked and what did not, and what they might do next.
  5. Praise attempts, as well as success, and make sure that you focus on the effort or hard work put into the success. Emphasize the importance of deliberate practice and that talent is developed over time through skillful practice.
  6. Create an environment at home that allows your children to explore building (playing with blocks, helping with projects, and more), drawing (crayons, finger paints, or paper), and music (on the radio, with children’s instruments, or through formal training through school or community resources). This may help to identify special interests.
  7. Help your children work through setbacks, or lack of self-confidence, by helping to identify negative thoughts that may suggest concerns about one's ability to be successful. As a parent, you can help children see what the small steps are and how persisting and overcoming obstacles is a part of succeeding. Help your child realize that setbacks are not permanent or all-encompassing.
  8. Seek out support systems available in the community to help your children learn new skills and thrive, such as tutoring or mentoring programs.
  9. Encourage your children to participate in school and community activities that may help them to develop positive behaviors, such as being grateful. In particular, volunteer activities may encourage the development of positive behaviors. Consider participating in community and school events yourself as a role a model.

About School Psychologists

School psychologists are members of school staff who support students’ ability to learn and teachers’ ability to teach. School psychologists apply expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. This is achieved by providing direct support to students, such as individualized learning and behavioral assessments to identify students’ strengths and needs, academic and behavioral interventions, counseling, and social skills training. School psychologists also consult with teachers, families, and other educators to improve support strategies and school-wide practices and policies, and are in a unique position to ensure students’ success every day, including both small and big accomplishments.

School psychologists are in every educational setting in FCPS. The school psychologist in your school looks forward to working with you and other families in our community to encourage all of our children, whether at home or at school, to take positive action to make our community a better place.

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles.