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Jinnae Anderson: Your child’s inner GPS

Confession: I’ve lived in Nevada County a long time and yet, once in a while, I still get lost! But not to worry: I consult my ever-helpful GPS and it gets me going in the right direction — just like that. If a GPS is helpful (to me, anyway) in Nevada County, whatever would we do without it in a new and confusing location? I love how my GPS guides me to make a U-turn here, turn in a quarter mile, and find my destination on the left when I have no idea where I am.

Have you ever considered the concept of an inner GPS? An internal GPS can whisper guidance as to which step to take next, which way to turn now, or what to say or do (or not) in any particular situation. It may tell us to stand firmly on our own two feet and speak up — or, conversely, it may whisper that, sometimes, the better part of courage is to turn around and run! An inner GPS is a marvelous system that we can trust to help us navigate the twists and turns of our lives.

An internal GPS can whisper guidance as to which step to take next, which way to turn now, or what to say or do (or not) in any particular situation.
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Until a child is around four years old, we are their inner GPS. “Let Sister have a turn now,” we say, or “Tell him you’re sorry.” The problem is that our children’s dependence on the external navigational system — ours — often continues as they get older. We parents forget to step back and encourage our children to start feeling into their own inner compass. A wise mom or dad starts reigning back their navigational influence during the later preschool years.



I can’t think of any character strength I’d rather nurture in my child than an inner GPS, and I speak of it often when I coach and teach parents. In this world of powerful external influences (social media, internet, peer pressure, etc), we explore helping our children to check internally for feelings, wisdom, and calm consideration of their next move.

Below are some ways to help your children develop the inner coordinates from which to navigate their lives:



• Help them to check their innermost feelings first. When your child has done something they’re proud of, for example, we want them primarily to be proud of themselves rather than to feel good because they have parental approval. When your little one climbs up the playground tower or your older one aces the test and they want to share it with you, first ask them, “How does that feel?” or say, “I bet you’re proud of yourself!” Bring their focus first and foremost to their internal feelings before optionally adding, “I’m proud of you, too!”

• Ask a lot of open-ended questions. How does this feel to you? Why do you think that happened? What would you do in their situation? Not only does this encourage our kids to feel and think for themselves, it also gives them the message that their feelings and insights are valuable and ought to be considered.

• Talk about the importance of choices, even the smallest choices, in their lives. My son’s friend went through a traumatic car accident that resulted in life-long limitations. We talk about how a small choice, like looking down at your phone for a nanosecond while you’re driving, can change your entire life. We discuss how, even though you may feel like screaming nasty things at your friend, it could affect your friendship in the long term and maybe there’s another way to handle the difficulty. In other words, we want our children to look at a situation through the lens of, “How could this choice impact the rest of my life?”

• More is caught than taught. Model to your children how you listen to and trust your own inner GPS — or how you’re starting to. Share with them how you feel light and open when something seems like the right direction, or how you feel shut down and anxious when you sense it’s like the wrong one. Effective parents process out loud to reveal their internal goings-on in a non-lecturing, easy-to-assimilate manner.

• Express trust and confidence in their inner compass. If your child has considered well and has a strong feeling or idea about a situation or person, tell them you trust them and encourage them to move forward with it — even if you disagree. As long as the worst that could happen would be an affordable life lesson, allow it to unfold. If it doesn’t work out the way your child hoped, that too is valuable input for the development of their inner GPS. After all, there is no failure — only feedback.

• Guide them to access other ways of listening. The right side of the brain expresses itself with feelings and inner knowing. It is a quieter voice than the loud, logical left side and it’s important to practice calming down enough to hear it. The body, too, will express itself when one listens: Is their stomach tied up in knots? Does their heart feel huge and happy? Make sure your child is in a receptive mode and then help them to explore and to learn the language of their inner GPS.

We know that teaching life skills to our children is an important part of what we parents do. While it may not be the first life skill that comes to mind, we do a huge favor to our children when we cultivate their ability to explore and trust their feelings, insights, and values. It’s so important to give our kids the confidence to access and speak the findings of their inner GPS — and to encourage this ability with parental openness, compassion, and trust.

Jinnae Anderson is the Parenting Specialist for the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools. She teaches an 8-week Nurturing Parenting series, tentatively in-person starting this fall. For more information, contact Jinnae at janderson@nevco.org or 530-238-5608

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Nurturing Parenting 8-Week Series, taught by Jinnae Anderson, Parenting Specialist for Nevada County Superintendent of Schools

WHEN: Evening session, Tuesdays, Sept. 6 through Nov. 1 (no class Oct 18), 5:30-7:30 p.m. Pizza and childcare are included for evening series.

Morning session, Wednesdays, Sept. 14 through Nov. 9 (no class Oct 19), 10 a.m. to noon

WHERE: Evening session at Grass Valley Charter School 225 S. Auburn St, Grass Valley. Morning session at Nevada County Superintendent’s Office 380 Crown Point Circle, Grass Valley

COST: $35 materials fee (scholarships available)

MORE INFO: To register or for more info email janderson@nevco.org or call 530-238-5608


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