How do you know when your child is successful? Alfred Adler and his students, Harold Mosak and Rudolph Dreikurs, broke life down into 5 areas they called life tasks. Adler said humans need to master these “tasks of life” to achieve satisfaction in interpersonal relationships. Parents, teachers, and other important adults can observe the child’s behavior in each of these areas and determine where the child may need extra support.
- Friendship: This task involves developing skills to make and maintain friendships.
Assessing this life task involves observing the child at play with friends. This can be in both day-to-day life and during special occasions, such as a birthday party.
Some questions to ask kids about friendships include: How do you get along with other kids? Describe your best friend. What do you like about him or her? What does he/she/they like about you? What kinds of things do you do together? Who are your other friends? Where do you see them? What kinds of activities do you do with them? Do you prefer to play with lots of kids all at once, just a few kids, just one other kid, or by yourself? If you could change anything about your relationships with other kids, what would you change?
Building a friendship depends on a child’s emotional skills, self-regulation skills, and social competence. And parents can play an important role in the development of these abilities.
Some ways to help your child build these skills is to
- model prosocial behavior yourself- let your child see you interacting positively with others
- role play at home- practice starting a conversation with your child or asking other kids to play
- get the ball rolling- see if you can schedule a play date with a peer your child is interested in being friends with
- teach empathy- strengthen your child’s capacity to understand others
- help them to name emotions- acknowledge and validate their feelings
- School: This task involves both the academic and social-emotional areas of school. Assess this area by consulting with your child’s teacher or school counselor and/or playing school with your child at home.
Some questions to ask about school include: Ask child lifestyle questions like: How do things go for you at school? What do you like best at school? What is your favorite subject? What do you like least about school? What is your least favorite subject? What would you be rather doing than going to school? What do you do best at school? What does your teacher like about you? The principal? The school counselor? The custodian? What would you like to change about school? What do you get in trouble for at school? What happens when you get in trouble at school? (What are the consequences, if any?) Who disciplines you at school? How do you feel about that person? How do you react when you get disciplined at school?
Other ways to support your child in this area include
- Attending parent-teacher conferences
- Applying for IEP or 504 support services, if necessary
- Study with your child
- Encourage your child to read- have dedicated family reading time each night
- Volunteer at the school or join the PTO
- Send your child to school ready to learn- have supplies prepared in their backpack, ensure access to a nutritional breakfast and lunch, practice positive sleep hygiene
- Family: This task involves having positive relationships with other members of the family including parents, siblings, and extended family members. Assess this area by observing personal and family interactions and/or playing house or dolls with your child.
Some questions to ask about family: Describe each person in your family. Which of your brothers and sisters is most different from you? How are he/she/they different from you? (In a family of just two children, ask how the other sibling is different from the client.) Which of your brothers and sisters is most like you? How are they/he/they like you? (In a family of just two children, ask how the other sibling is like the client.) What kind of person is your dad? What kind of person is your mom? Which one of your parents are you most like? How are you like him or her? What do you get in trouble for at home? What happens when you get into trouble at home? (What are the consequences, if any?) What do you do (how do you react) when you get into trouble at home? Which of your parents is stricter? What he/she/they strict about? What happens when your parents disagree? What does your family do for fun together? If you could change anything about your family, what would you change?
Supporting your child in this are looks like
- Find time for one-on-one time- this can be playing, talking, or enjoying an activity together
- Enjoy shared meals
- Have designated family time- watch a weekly movie or play a game together
- Focus on emotional needs- validate your child’s feelings and be available to help them co-regulate
- Apologize to your child when necessary- don’t be afraid to acknowledge your role in family conflicts
- Show genuine interest- listen to your child’s opinions and favorite things, have them teach you about things you don’t know like video games or dancing
- Self: This life task is about learning to care about and take care of yourself; it is related to self-concept and a sense of self-efficacy and self-confidence. Assess this task by listening to the way the child talks to him or herself.
Some questions to ask about self include: if you had three wishes, what would they be? If anything in your life could be different, what would you want to change? If you could be any toy, what toy would you be? What do you like about that toy? What hurts your feelings? What is it that hurts your feelings? How do you act when your feelings are hurt? How do your parents and other people react when you feel hurt? What are you good at? What do you wish you were better at doing? What do you like about yourself? What do other people like about you? What do you wish you could change about yourself?
Encourage your child’s sense of self by
- Helping your child learn to do things- teach them something new each week and expand their abilities
- Don’t do something for them that they can do themselves- if necessary, tackle a project as a team, including your child in the solution
- Encourage effort and progress- don’t focus on the final product or outcome
- Acknowledge their strengths- point them out to your child
- Allow kids to help at home, school, or in the community- give them age-appropriate chores or volunteer together as a family
- Spirituality/existential: This life task involves exploring personal beliefs, considering whether the person believes in something bigger than himself, herself, themselves. It involves exploring the possibility of a relationship with the higher self, a higher being, etc. As part of this life task, individuals begin to consider what happens when we die, why bad things happen, the meaning of life, etc. This can be assessed by reading books about spiritual or existential topics.
Some questions to ask about spirituality/existentialism include: What do you believe about God? How do you feel about going to services? What do you do there? What do you like about it? What do you learn there? What do you think happens when people die?
Support your child’s life task of spirituality/existentialism by
- Start a gratitude practice
- Learn together- explore different religions or denominations
- Appreciate nature
- Explore family traditions and values
- Don’t pretend to have all the answers
Raising a well-rounded child is an important and challenging job. It is also very rewarding. If you or your child needs extra support in one or more of these areas, contact us for further assistance.