When East Linton mum-of-two Lorna Park realised that her young son had changed from being a happy, confident little boy to suffering from severe anxiety with a very negative mindset, she was determined to do something about it by creating the UK’s first positive psychology life book for kids. Lorna is mum to Charlie (12) and Jacob (7).
Interview by Nadia Duncan
Q) Positive psychology. What’s it all about and how do we do it?
My own journey of discovery with positive psychology started when I changed my career. My husband and I used to run the post office in East Linton and, as you can imagine, it was hard work and very long hours. I joined a network marketing company and was surprised by how much they focused on self-development as a person, not just career development. I discovered positive psychology via Positive Psychologist and Global success coach Niyc Pidgeon (who wonderfully has endorsed My Great Big Positive Life) and it blew my mind. It made me take a long hard look at myself – my own strengths and weaknesses. I also then read a book called Mindset by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist DrCarol Dweck and it was a lightbulb moment. I suffered from anxiety from quite a young age and when I read it, I started to realise what was going on with my son Charlie. That’s when I became really passionate about seeing how I could take what I had learnt and implement it to help Charlie and other children just like him.
Q) What sort of things would Charlie become stressed and anxious about?
Charlie was always such a happy, resilient little boy but in primary four things started to change. He loved, and was very good at maths, but struggled with his reading. Early on in the school year, after a reading test, he was moved down a couple of reading groups in his class. Unfortunately, my husband and I weren’t aware of this so when we tried to encourage him, by saying the type of things all parents do like, “Don’t be daft, you’re a brilliant reader”, he just didn’t believe us and thought we were lying to him. Quite early on he had a very fixed mindset about his abilities and ironically, looking back, I can now see that our encouragement and praise was actually doing more harm than good. After that he just seemed to give up on himself and that negativity quickly moved to other areas of his life.He loved judo (and was doing really well at it) however when he got injured in a competition he completely lost his confidence and gave it up. To make things worse, sadly after that he was also bullied at school. He was only eight years old and I believe that the loss of hisself-confidence allowed the bullying to happen.
Q) Why do you think there has been a huge rise in mental health challenges for young people?
We can look to social media for some of the blame, however I alsobelieve too many of us think about education purely in terms of academic achievement and I think that we need to go back to basics. In some of the research I carried out I discovered that the creative industries are the fastest growing industries on the planet, so why on earth would we not want to encourage our young people and build a new generation of creatives? As parents, we try and protect our kids when they are small and wrap them up in cotton wool. We’ve allheard references to the ‘snowflake generation’ but why do we thinkour kids aren’t as tough as we were? When we take all adversity away we can also inadvertently remove resilience. It’s absolutely NOT about ‘guilting’ parents, but as our lives become busier, and often with both parents working, the emphasis on the time we spend with our children has become about having a lovely time together and perhaps not so much about teaching the important life lessons that will help them develop into responsible and well-adjusted adults.
Q) Tell me about the book and how it can help children become more positive little people?
When I tried to find a child’s equivalent to the Mindset book for Charlie, I just couldn’t find one. I was looking for something more than an activity book, something that would give him the knowledge and how-to to change his entire thought process. I’m not a professional, I’m just a mum, but when I couldn’t find what Charlie needed, I decided to create one myself! Little things can have a massive ripple effect and the techniques have made a huge difference to him. The 3 in 1 book encourages positive daily habits like affirmations and to look for the important things in life – not money or possessions – to be grateful for, such as our friends and family.There’s a planner which children can use to make notes about all the positive things in their life and a section on how your brain works e.g. explaining the science behind it all and how your brain can release hormones that can make you feel sick if you’re stressed.There are also sections on resilience and how to build it, feelings and emotions. It’s a real mix of activities, suggestions, a journal and teaching them the knowledge they need to make real positive change in their lives. One task I really encourage for kids is setting their own goals. After his very tough year Charlie had the most amazing teacher. I walked into his classroom one day and on the wall she had asked the kids to write up all the self-development goals they wanted to achieve. When they reached a goal they rang a bell and they just loved it. As a teacher, or parent, giving our kids that sort of intrinsic motivation is just so crucial to help them understand that they are in control of who they are and that they can choose to live a happy, confident life.