Posted on 21 Feb 2017
There's plenty in the world today to get us down, and it can be tough to shield our kids from life's inevitable disappointments and bad news.
That's why it's so important to work on instilling in them a sense of optimism - the belief that even though things may be hard now, something good is always waiting just around the corner.
Optimistic kids are happy, hopeful kids. And teaching our children to look on the bright side has been shown to help them do better in school, keep their stress levels low and protect their mental health. Optimism can also help foster resiliency - the ability to bounce back and persevere even when the going gets tough.
Optimism is also a teachable skill, and these tips from Children's can help you foster it in your kids.
Teaching our children to look on the bright side has been shown to help them do better in school, keep their stress levels low and protect their mental health.
Model optimism. Optimism can be a pretty abstract concept for children, but if they see mom or dad turning their frown upside down after a setback or disappointment, it’ll be easy for them to do the same. Talk to your child about one of your own disappointments in a language they’ll understand, and explain that even though a situation didn’t turn out how you wanted, there’s still always something to learn from it. And that just because this particular situation didn’t work this time, there’s always a chance it will in the future.
Encourage your child to take risks, and offer support when they fail. Sometimes the only way to learn to be optimistic is when we’re faced with failure, and often failure comes when we're brave enough to take a risk. If your child wants to try something new, encourage it. And when they slip up, remind them everyone fails sometimes – the important thing is to stay positive and never give up. Appropriate risk-taking is also a great way to help your child build confidence, and confident kids tend to be optimistic kids.
Nip complaining in the bud. Complaining is one of the biggest enemies of optimism. And the more we allow our children to do it, the easier it is for it to become a default response to disappointment or failure. The next time your child slips into a complaint spiral, work with them to see the good in a not-so-fun situation. Help them to come up with a positive statement for every negative comment they make.
Give context for bad news. Whether it’s news on the TV or bad news they receive in their own lives, make sure you provide them with some context so they can begin to learn how to put setbacks into perspective. If you’re working to explain a scary or tragic news event to your child, point out the helpers in the story – the firemen who came to the rescue, the good Samaritan who offered to help. If it’s bad news on a smaller, more personal scale, help them to see the bigger picture, instead of letting them dwell on the negative. Let them feel their feelings, but also work to help them understand that in the grand scheme of things, good tends to win out.
Point out happy endings. Sometimes examples and stories are the best way for children to learn an otherwise difficult concept, especially if they’re small. Expose children to books, stories and movies where the main character goes through something tough, but comes out on the other side stronger, better, wiser. Remind them of times in their own lives, or in the lives of people they know, when things did turn out well in the end. Seeing happy endings for themselves helps children begin to develop a more hopeful mindset, and they’ll begin to more easily see the happy endings all around them in their own everyday lives.
This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.