The world today needs optimists more than ever. Optimism, seeing the glass as half full or the conviction that things will eventually work out, is a cornerstone of resilience and an absolute asset in achieving any kind of success in life.
When life gets tough, you want your child to hang on, pull himself together and keep going. Instead of giving up, you want your kids to believe that things can get better and work towards that. Research tells us that encouraging optimism in our kids comes with numerous benefits including better mental and physical well-being, a greater sense of purpose and satisfaction in life as well as a better ability to cope with the stresses of life.
Plus, let’s be honest, raising optimistic children improves their chances of having a healthy social life, after all, no one likes a Pessimistic Pete or Negative Nancy.
But how do you go about raising an optimist? Here are 6 tips to help your kid develop a sunny outlook on life:
1. Model optimism.
Are you guilty of saying things like “Everything always goes wrong!” or “We NEVER have enough money!”? If so, stop it.
Always focusing on negative thoughts is a classic pessimistic trait. Even worse, these views and attitudes of the world are communicated to your child, who is always watching and listening to you. The more you complain and gripe, the more likely they are to develop the same traits. If you want to help your kids become more upbeat, start by having a brighter outlook yourself.
2. Foster an attitude of gratitude in your kids.
Following the point above, you can help your kids become more optimistic by making gratitude a habit in your home. To start with, encourage everyone to share one good thing that happened or that they were grateful for. This shows them to naturally look for the silver lining in every experience. As your kids grow older, the habit will come naturally to them and they’ll lead happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives.
3. Allow them to experience success and take reasonable risks.
Giving your kids opportunities to achieve success and experience the pride of accomplishment will go a long way towards helping them develop “can-do” attitudes. A good way to do this is to assign them age-appropriate household chores and tasks. This not only teaches responsibility but also helps foster their confidence and makes them feel capable.
Additionally, learn to let go of the reins every once in a while and encourage your kids to try something new. While the parental instinct to shield our kids from harm is natural, it can sometimes undermine their confidence and unconsciously send a message that they can’t stand on their own two feet. So encourage them to learn new skills and hobbies, take trips without you and generally expand their boundaries. The lessons they’ll learn will spill over into other areas of their lives and they’ll become self-assured individuals who don’t crumble in the face of a challenge.
4. Shelter them from unnecessary stress.
The news these days is awash with all manner of negativity. While adults know that this is mostly for ratings, the constant barrage of bad news can be debilitating and overwhelming for kids, profoundly affecting their outlook. To prevent this, shelter them as much as you can from negative media. Also, don’t forget that social media is a huge part of our kids’ lives and impacts them in various ways.
A good way to start minimizing this kind of negativity is by having device-free dinners and organizing family outings where you just bond and enjoy each other’s company. Tuning out from the world from time to time teaches your child that self-care is important and that it helps you connect with what really matters.
5. Help them quiet their negative self-talk.
Kids, just like adults, have an inner critic whose voice can be quite loud at times. Whenever you hear your child say, “This is too hard for me” or “I’m too dumb” and other statements along these lines, that’s their inner critic talking. Left unchecked, these negative statements can take hold in your child’s psyche and they’ll start believing them.
Ward this off early by helping them confront their negative self-talk. Firstly, empathize with them and let them know you understand what they’re feeling. Next, teach them to externalize those thoughts and see them as just thoughts — not facts.
Finally, help them learn how to replace the negative self-talk with positive statements. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m too dumb, I’ll never get this”, encourage your child to say something like, “It might be hard now, but I’ll give it another shot tomorrow.”
6. Teach them to put things into perspective.
Bad things happen. That’s just how life is. However, our attitude and how we react to what happens to us make all the difference. Teaching this to our kids and helping them to cultivate optimistic thinking elevates them from victims to victors. While doing this, we should be careful not to sugarcoat things or ignore facts in a misguided attempt at “positive thinking.”
Optimistic thinking involves taking a realistic look at circumstances, weighing it all up and choosing to see the silver lining instead. This allows your child to see that they’re not powerless, regardless of the situation they find themselves in.
It might take some work but raising your kids to be optimists will have a positive impact on their future. What parent wouldn’t want that for their kids?
Conversano, C., Rotondo, A., Lensi, E., Della Vista, O., Arpone, F., & Reda, M. A. (2010). Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH, 6, 25–29. http://doi.org/10.2174/1745017901006010025
Simon, H.B. Giving thanks can make you happier. Healthbeat: Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
Social Media’s Impact on Self-Esteem & It’s Effects on Teens Today. Sundance Canyon Academy. Retrieved from https://www.sundancecanyonacademy.com/social-medias-impact-on-self-esteem-its-effects-on-teens-today-infographic/