30 Apr Why Optimism Is Important And How To Help Your Child Build It
One of the best things parents and educators can provide children is a healthy attitude to living. There is a sense of satisfaction and achievement for parents who feel confident that their child is equipped to handle difficulties and challenges. We live in a world of uncertainty and change where many things are beyond our control. How we manage often depends on the way we see situations. Helping your child become an optimist and ‘look on the bright side of life’ is a step towards preparing your child for a strong future.
What is optimism?
Optimism is being able to expect the best out of life’s experiences. It means having hope and a strong belief and confidence to deal with situations. Optimism is about thinking positively. Being able to look on the bright side helps all of us to get on top of challenges and manage life’s difficulties.
Why is optimism important?
Remember the story of the little red engine from your childhood? When faced with the challenge of climbing the hill, the little red engine said to itself over and over again ‘I think I can, I think I can’. As it came nearer to the top of the hill it changed its chant to ‘I know I can!’
If, like the engine, children believe they can, they are more likely to give things a go.
Psychologists who work with athletes ‘to win’ often help them develop images of themselves succeeding or ‘self talk’ to help them remain positive through hours of training. This is optimism in practice.
What are the building blocks of optimism?
- Having a go.
- Planning for the best outcome.
- Coming to terms with success and failure.
- Having the belief and confidence to try again.
How do children develop optimism?
Some children are born with a ‘sunny disposition’ and a natural ability that lends itself to dealing with challenges and solving problems. Other children may struggle to overcome difficulties, often expecting the worst to occur (making ‘mountains out of molehills’). As children grow and develop they need as many opportunities as possible to explore their world and experience success.
Every time children achieve something they set out to do, they start to develop a belief that they can go on trying and have more successes.
‘Self talk’ is what we say to ourselves to explain the things that happen through the day. When children can say to themselves that they can do something they are more likely to succeed.
The ways that adults think about and talk about their experiences are very powerful in shaping a child’s beliefs about why success or failure might happen.
An optimistic parent or educator, might say something like, ‘I was just thinking to myself that most of the time when you allow enough time and really try hard with your maths homework you get good results’, rather than ‘See, you never allow yourself enough time and you don’t try hard enough with your maths homework’.
The connection between what you think and how you feel, results in how you act.
What parents can do?
Be a good role model
Let your children hear how you make sense of a situation (hear your ‘self talk’) and share your positive thoughts with your children.
Rephrase what your child says
Say things or use different words to make more positive sense out of a situation. Child: ‘I never have anyone to play with.’ Parent: ‘Sometimes it’s hard to find a friend, but last week you had a good time with Mary.’
Tell your own stories of overcoming hardships
‘When I was at school I thought… but then I realised… ‘Use stories or videos to inspire – The Lion King, The Tortoise and the Hare, Free Willy.
Help your child catch the helpful and unhelpful thoughts and stick with the helpful ones.
Remember and tell some of the old sayings and highlight successes
‘If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again.’
‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’
Draw your child’s attention to stories and events that highlight public figures or winning teams who have overcome hardship.
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