This fortnight’s post has a similar theme to one I wrote a month ago.

Obviously, I had more to learn so here it is…

Twenty-six years ago, I vowed I would work out how human beings worked and teach it to kids so they could cope with problems, believe in themselves and live happy, loving and fulfilling lives.

When I taught the first Sparky and Shady workshop in January 2014 at the Coffs Harbour Showground I knew I was sharing great content but being the perfectionist I am, I also had my doubts as to whether all the content was absolutely correct and suitable for everyone who came along. For instance, one area of doubt I had was whether all people of all ages need to physically cry to release emotional energy (I’m still unsure about this one as I discuss below).

4.5 years later (and 11 weeks into my psychology degree) I now know that despite the fact that the program is absolutely psychologically sound it cannot possibly be the ‘be all and end all’ for everyone and that I can therefore, ‘let go’ of trying to make Sparky and Shady ‘perfect’ for everyone and just get it out there (I’m talking specifically about the online video course which has been a bit of challenge for my perfectionist tendancy!) Here’s the back story to this realisation…

After my very first lecture in psychology I was seriously triggered (I experienced intensely bad feelings) when the Professor said, “I am scared of anyone who claims they have all the answers.” “Shit, that’s me!” I thought. In response to this I made an appointment to meet with her to discuss the future of Sparky and Shady. “Should I just let it sit for four years while I get my psych degree and make sure the program is perfect or should I teach it along the way?” was the general gist of why I went. The lecturer listened to my story and said, “I’m not scared of you. The fact that you are willing to let go of everything you think you know to find out the truth assures me that whatever you have come up with has undergone incredible scrutiny!” (Or words to that effect.) She then asked me what my ‘Sparky’ suggested I do. I told her that my Sparky told me to keep teaching the program and to tell everyone I had no guarantee that it would work for them or their children because everyone was different. She smiled and sent me on my way.

I recently wrote an essay on whether Cognitive Behaviour Therapy was more effective than Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for treating anxiety and discovered that there was no significant difference between the two therapies (Sparky and Shady uses aspects of both) which basically means that both programs work for some people but not all people. After I handed this essay in I researched a whole heap of other psychological therapies and discovered that Sparky and Shady uses aspects of a wide range of different therapies that are used by Clinical Psychologists to support people with depression, anxiety, trauma, grief and other diagnosed disorders. On the one hand I was surprised and on the other I wasn’t. If you ask a question long enough, “How do I help kids cope with problems and believe in themselves?” then you are going to find out the answer. I guess I’m not the only one who has found some answers.

And that’s the point – there are lots of answers! Everyone is different and must therefore find out their own answer to the question, “How do I cope with problems and believe in myself? How do I live a happy, loving and fulfilling life?”

Every time I contemplate getting a new car (new for me or brand new) I always think, “Why are there so many different makes and models of cars?”

The answer is – everyone is different!

One make and model of car does not suit everyone. So it is handy that there are over 1700 models of car available in the world.

There are over 100 primary school programs listed on the KidsMatter (a joint Australian Psychological Association and Department of Education website) of which Sparky and Shady is one (I couldn’t find a list for kids programs in the public domain for parents and kids). These programs have lots of different content and lots of different strategies to support children to be well in one or more of these domains – mental, social, physical, emotional and spiritual. I haven’t looked at every new program recently, but I do know that the popular ones emphasise the importance of; empowering kids with self-belief, giving them choice, listening to them, being consistent with them, loving them no matter what, allowing them space to express their feelings, encouraging them to be grateful, teaching them to be in the present moment (mindfulness), teaching them how to set goals and encouraging them to do things for others (incidentally – Sparky and Shady has all of these elements).

I have gone back to Uni to study psychology so I can help more children cope with problems, believe in themselves and live loving, happy and fulfilling lives. I intend to gather evidence on the effectiveness of Sparky and Shady as a program in both families and schools and to conduct research on aspects of the program that no one has researched yet (such as do all people of all ages benefit from crying?). At the moment, I know the program works for most kids and I know it is psychologically sound. I also know that there are other programs out there that may help your child too – you have to find what works for your child!

Being sceptical is important, so make sure you research the programs and people that are available to check what suits you and your child. Here is a great article that suggests picking a program that is, “evidence based”, “written by an expert”, “feels applicable to you” and is “trustworthy”.

If you decide that Sparky and Shady is worth a go then check out the upcoming workshops and after school classes (which include the online video course).

In my humble opinion, Sparky and Shady is the best self-help program available for kids, but does it work for your child? Why not come along and check it out? All workshops and classes come with a full money back guarantee if after giving it a go you decide it hasn’t helped your child cope with problems, believe in themselves and live a more loving, happy and fulfilling life!

Love Kathy