Jeni Hooper is a Child Psychologist and Parent Coach who is based in Winchester, England. She has over 30 years’ experience working with children and giving parenting advice in both public and independent settings. In the Spring of 2012, her guide book on parenting, What Children Need to be Happy, Confident and Successful : Step by Step Positive Psychology to Help Children Flourish, was published. Jeni Hooper’s step-by-step guide is a wonderful resource for professionals working with children, including counsellors, social workers, educators, and psychotherapists, as well as parents. I highly recommend it and my review of it is here.
Lorna: Welcome to our Author Interview Series! It is only my second interview with an author who lives in England. Jeni, please tell us about yourself, your studies and your career.
Jeni Hooper >> Lovely to connect with you in Canada. I’m an Educational Psychologist here in England which involves supporting a group of schools and providing staff training as well as individual assessment of children with developmental, educational or emotional needs. I am fortunate to have spent my whole career working with children, first as a teacher in primary schools (Elementary school in Canada) and then in a special school before completing my training as a psychologist. I have met so many lovely people and learnt something from every one of them. I have 2 degrees in psychology and would have done a 3rd one when Positive Psychology was launched over 10 years ago. Instead I studied it in my spare time and started to use it in my work with children.
Parenting Book: What Children Need to be Happy, Confident and Successful
Lorna: High five to you for your wonderful parenting book! Writing a book is a huge undertaking. What events in your life led you to taking the time to write your book, What Children Need to be Happy, Confident and Successful ?
Jeni Hooper >> My efforts to apply Positive Psychology developed into a practical programme which I called The Flourishing Programme. It proved both popular and effective so I wanted to share it with more people which is where the book idea was born.
Lorna: You wrote, “Positive emotions undo the effect of stress and broaden and build focus of attention. The more positive experiences a child has, the more that creates the inner calm which bolsters learning and protects against stress.” What ways can caregivers nurture positive emotions on day to day bases?
Jeni Hooper >> Nurturing positive emotions makes a huge difference to a child’s day to day life. We all naturally focus on what is giving us trouble or else we worry about what might go wrong, this is called the negativity bias. Overcoming this by being positive has to be an act of will power. If you set out to notice what is good and what is going well then you can focus on it and savour it. One simple exercise is to share 3 good things that have happened today. Or you can treasure precious moments with a scrapbook, photos or collecting things in a treasure box. Our grandparents were wise when they told us to count our blessings.
Lorna: I enjoyed your book immensely and only wish it had been around when I was raising my children and teaching. In your book you wrote, “The child supplies the power but the adults do the steering.” Please elaborate.
Jeni Hooper >> Each child is born with the desire to learn about the world and do things in their own unique way. Children are not blank slates waiting passively to be shaped by others, but they do need adults to guide and support them so their efforts turn out well. Children are designed to be full of energy and curiosity but this does need to be channelled to avoid mishaps!
Lorna: Tell us about your « Flourishing Programme ».
Jeni Hooper >> The Flourishing Programme has 5 core elements:
- Discovering and Building Personal Strengths,
- Nurturing Emotional Wellbeing,
- Creating Positive Communication ,
- Developing Learning Strengths
- Promoting Resilience.
The book explores each of these in turn examining why each is important to a child’s wellbeing and looking at what can move a child forward. There are various questionnaires- type assessment tools which can be used to explore where a child is currently. The activities recommended are practical and non technical designed for any interested adult to put into practice without any special training. Because the focus is positive you can be confident that it will not have an adverse effect. All activities are safe and fun as well.
Lorna: Parents who purchase your book will want to keep it handy for future reference during their parenting years. The content is well organized and user-friendly with its detailed Table of Contents, numerous Tables, Figures and Boxes, Notes, and a comprehensive Index. In Box 14, you have, “Ten Strategies to Help You Make the Flourishing Programme a Success.” They all seem important but please explain about a few parenting strategies that can make a real difference for your child.
Jeni Hooper >> My first recommendation is to look at the world through your child’s eyes as well as your own. Taking your child’s perspective can show you things that will help you decide what to do. Sometimes pretending you are hovering above a situation and looking down on it can free your mind and help you see new angles. I also think that creating firm boundaries are vital: it is like scaffolding supporting a fragile structure until it is solidly build. The boundaries we offer our children change as they grow and become more competent so we encourage their competence and independence but protect them still from getting out of their depth.
Lorna: I read that you now specialise in applying positive psychology to promoting children’s psychological wellbeing as a trainer, coach and consultant. You offer a variety of flexible and practical support methods to suit the families you work with. Tell us about your private practice and how you meet the needs of the families you work with. Add the links how families can contact you.
Jeni Hooper >> I have increasingly been working with families via Skype, telephone and email. This is extremely flexible and practical too. Parents know so much about their child and their family situation that we can develop strategies through discussion rather than needing face to face assessment. Most families opt for a 6 session coaching programme by phone where an action plan is agreed. I can send supporting material by email and email updates can be arranged as needed. Anyone wanting to know more is welcome to visit my website at www.jenihooper.com
Lorna: In closing, congratulations on your excellent parenting guide book. Thank you so much for sharing your expert advice with our readers. Please tell up what Jeni Hooper still has on her To-Do list for the coming year. Please give us your links to follow you and where to buy your book.
Jeni Hooper >> I’m planning a busy year with a series of UK workshops and have a further book in the pipeline but can’t say any more on that quite yet. Since What Children Need was published I have had a lot of journalist enquiries for contributions to magazines and other books and even an invite to appear on television. A bit scary after all these years of quietly doing my job and wanting the child their parents and the teachers to take the credit for what goes well. After all, although I start the process of making changes they have to do all the hard work.
Lorna: Be sure to visit the web site, Jeni Hooper Child Psychologist and Wellbeing Coach