As parents, we all want the very best for our children. How we do that looks different from family to family, but one thing that psychologists and experts agree on is that resilience is key. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from a setback, and optimism is a key part of resilience. Think about it: if you tend to see the negative side of things, it can be hard to bounce back. If you habitually look for the silver lining or the bright side, it’s much easier to move forward.
What is optimism?
Optimism — that key part of resilience — is defined as a hope or confidence for the future. So, if you’re hoping and trying to raise an optimist, then you’re looking to instill confidence and hope. And if you think these are built-in qualities, think again. These can be learned by anyone. Here’s how.
Monkey see, monkey do
Modelling optimism might seem easier to say than do, depending on your attitude, but in the long run it will help you, too. If you find yourself saying things like, “Why does everything always go wrong?!” and “Stupid! Why do I always make the same mistake!” work on re-framing those thoughts. You see, children tend to model what they see — the classic monkey see, monkey do — so they listen to what you say and absorb it. When you find yourself heading for a negative phrase, pause and try to find a positive light to the situation.
Show and tell your kids how much you love them
This might seem unrelated, but hear us out. Confidence is a big part of optimism and resilience. A big part of confidence is security and much emotional security comes from knowing that you are loved unconditionally. This means loving — and showing love — to your child even when they are behaving less than perfectly. If we only show love to children when they are ‘well behaved’, then we give them the idea that bad behaviour is unlovable, that they are unlovable. It’s harder and can be more effort, but make sure that you show and tell your kids that you love them in every situation.
Shelter them from negativity
This applies more to younger kids, but remember that we can regulate our emotions independently only after about 25 years of age. As adults, we know that the constant negativity in the media is more about ratings than reality, and even we can get bogged down in it. For kids, the barrage of bad news can be overwhelming. Try to monitor internet usage, don’t discuss bad world news in front of your kids, and try to ensure there’s lots of unplugged bonding time. Obviously, some bad news is unavoidable, but 8-year-olds don’t need to know about the latest school shooting.
Work on an attitude of gratitude
There are countless studies that show that gratitude helps to make us happy. Happiness leads to optimism, so let’s focus on what we’re grateful for. It might seem a bit ‘woo-woo’ at the beginning, but start a new gratitude habit as a family. One thing that works quite well is to choose a time that everyone is usually together, say dinner time. Then, before you start, each person mentions something they are grateful for. It might be small, or seem awkward at first, but it helps you all to end the day on a happy note.
Get involved in your community
As humans, we crave community. In the face of all the world’s bad news, it can be tempting to isolate yourself and your family. But studies show that being involved in your community fosters the human need for connection. You can choose what you do. Try volunteering, joining a Scout or Girl Guides group, starting a park movie night. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but as long as it brings people together, you show your children that getting involved makes a difference, no matter how small.
One thing we like about trying to raise an optimist is that these small changes will help to make things better for the whole family. So while you’re raising your child to be resilient, confident and optimistic for their good, you’re doing the same thing for yourself and your spouse. There are no wrong answers, and we won’t get it right all the time. But if you try just a few of these tips, you might find your own outlook gradually changing, too.
- 6 Tips For Raising Optimistic Kids: https://psychcentral.com/blog/%E2%80%8B6-tips-for-raising-optimistic-kids/
- How to Raise Optimistic Kids in Pessimistic Times: https://time.com/5370788/raising-optimistic-kids-pessimistic-times/
- 10 tips to raise an optimistic child: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ten-tips/10-tips-to-raise-an-optimistic-child