Kids have a lot of challenges to face. Academics, friends, bullies, changing bodies, school changes, activities, and homework are just some of the things they have to contend with. How do parents keep kids healthy and decrease their stress?
A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (June 2013) suggests that hope is very important in terms of preventing depression and anxiety in children who experienced peer-related bullying or conflict. Martin Seligman, a researcher in positive psychology, also found that children who were more hopeful had improved learning in school.
What does it mean to be hopeful?
Being hopeful means believing things can be better.
We can teach our children to be active in terms of making things better for themselves. A hopeful child expects the best and sees difficulties as challenges to be solved rather than the something they need to accept.
How do we teach hope?
First, remember, your child watches you.
Do you have a sense of hope when you approach obstacles or do you give up easily? Take a personal inventory of your own behavior. When you are facing difficulty, talk it out with your child. Tell yourself, “I can do this. It will be ok. I just need to find a solution.” Let your child hear your thought process.
Read to your child.
Many children’s books have messages of hope. Talk to them about their favorite hero or heroine. Ask them what they like about the characters. Describe how that character shows hope and determination. There are many options including common book series, such as Magic Tree House novels, Harry Potter, or other novels and picture books. Avoid books or media that only provide violence as a way to solve problems. Rather, reinforce characters that think through their options and find other solutions to their problems.
Teach your children how to stop and think.
Role-play difficult situations or conversations ahead of time. Problem-solve different responses and choices. Reward your child for role-playing with you, as well as trying different responses. Ask them how their efforts worked. Teach them you are on their side, and you will figure things out together.
If your child feels overwhelmed or stressed, talk about these issues with a mental health professional, like a child psychologist. Most child psychologists have experience with teaching problem-solving skills. They are there to help.