One thing we all need right now, especially for our kids, is optimism. Anxiety and uncertainty are part of daily life. Still, there are ways to help children navigate the challenges 2020 has brought us, whether in our own household or our professional practice as health care providers.
1. Model it. Children will look to their caregivers for cues on how to respond to life stresses. As parents, it is important to model the characteristics you would like your child to exhibit. Why? Because kids are constantly watching and listening to you. Healthy habits, including optimism, start with having an optimistic mindset yourself.
2. Practice looking for the positive. Daily life is full of unexpected challenges, and celebrating lessons learned from those difficulties can help your children become more optimistic. Try encouraging your kids to share one positive experience they have every day. This gets them into the habit of looking for the positive as opposed to focusing on the negative.
3. Encourage kids to accomplish tasks on their own. Providing opportunities for your child to be successful goes a very long way about developing a strong sense of self. When children can achieve success and are praised for doing so, this builds their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Age-appropriate activities like chores, baking, art projects, etc., are great places to start.
4. Allow kids to try new things. As a parent, it is natural to want to protect your child from everything. However, it’s important to let kids explore and try new activities. Being too involved or too supportive can inadvertently send the message that the child cannot do things on their own and require parental intervention/reassurance to be successful. This is the opposite of what we are trying to instill in our children.
5. Nip negative self-talk in the bud. Just like adults, children can be very critical of themselves. If you hear your child saying things like “It’s too hard” or “I can’t do it,” do your best to redirect these thoughts at the moment to more positive statements. Instead, try to encourage statements like “this might be difficult right now, and with some practice, this will get easier.”
6. Keep it real. Optimistic thinking is not the same as sugar coating. The truth is our kids are not going to be great at everything, and things will not always turn out the way they imagined. Struggle and disappointment are a part of everyday life. Optimistic thinking involves looking at a situation, accepting it as is, and choosing to view it with a positive lens. It is important to send your child the message that as long as they did their best, that is all that they can ask of themselves and is something to be proud of. This allows kids to see the innate value in their efforts, even if they do not meet their own expectations.
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