Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, joined a team of 55 international researchers in 2001, to ask the question: “How can we help young people realise their full potential?” This led to research in what makes life worth living, how we experience a richer life, how we reach optimal well-being and how we can become the best version of ourselves. Thus followed three years of research, which resulted in the identification of the 24 character strengths used by mankind.
This series of blogs helps you understand the 24 scientifically proven character strengths, which help mankind’s wellbeing and quality of life across the globe.
4 ESSENTIALS FOR ENCOURAGING HOPE IN YOUR CHILD
Hope is one of the most important strengths for a child. People with hope:
Hope – it’s such a tiny word – but it's so enormously important, isn’t it? Hopeful people can face even the most negative times with a positive attitude. And because of the many health benefits of optimism, hope significantly improves our mental health – and that's hugely important for our children’s future. Here are some important ways to help your child gain the strength of hope.
1. Focus on the positive, understanding that there may be disappointment
A big part of hope is focusing on the positive of what might, could, or should happen and having a positive mindset. Hope is focusing on the best outcome and believing that it will happen. Importantly though, it’s also having the understanding that, even if what we hope for doesn’t happen, we have the confidence to handle any disappointment and the ability to move forward. Positivity is so very important – if we teach our children to recognise and accept any disappointment, and take it in their stride, it makes it so much easier for them to focus on hope. To stay motivated and be hopeful.
2. Teach that hope conquers fear
You can help to give your child the skills to face their own ‘what ifs’ at an early age. Do this by showing them that the ‘what ifs’ of their thoughts aren’t real – they're just fears or worries and will probably never happen. One way to do this is to point out and encourage children to come up with their own, silly 'what ifs'. For example: “What if loads of monkeys got into Tesco’s, and ate all the bananas?” or “What if slugs and snails were really fast, and ate up all the vegetables?” If we can help children to see the real silliness of the ‘what if’ thoughts they have, it helps them to see how much more important it is to focus on hopes instead of fears. By doing this, it will help them to learn that by focusing on hope we CAN change how we feel about things, and that makes it much so much easier to deal with our worries and fears. This approach helps your child to have a positive mindset, choosing the positive over the negative, and is giving them a lifelong toolkit for reduced anxiety and wellbeing.
3. Teach Self Belief
It won’t come as a huge surprise for you to know that research has found that children who use positive self-talk, and don’t beat themselves up for making mistakes, are far more likely to reach their goals. A child with good self-esteem and self-belief will find it easier to hope for success, and have the motivation to strive to achieve it – whatever that success might be. Making a new friend, learning to ride a bike, getting a great result in a test…
You can help your young child start this process by using the language of positivity around your child, “We will do this” “You can do this”, “You are strong”, “You are brave”, “You are capable…” Similarly, telling stories of success to your child will really inspire them. The ‘Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls’ series is a great start. Real life stories about friends and family who have overcome barriers and difficulties are brilliant too. Children will remember these stories, they are relatable, and it will often inspire them not to give up hope in the face of adversity.
4. Teach Goal Setting And Planning
Hope doesn’t mean wishful thinking, as in “I hope I win the lottery.” Wishful thinking isn’t a skill or a strength! But a person who has hope as a character strength will have the ability to set goals for themselves that are clear and attainable. But they should also have the ability to develop strategies to reach those goals. We can start helping our children achieve this when they are very young by modelling this ourselves in day-to-day life: “Today, I’m going to organise a playdate. What do I need, to be able to do that? Let’s get a piece of paper and a pen and write down what we need. We need to write down who we want to come, find their telephone number, get a date and time. Great!” It may seem small and inconsequential, but it’s a good learning opportunity. And, as children get older, they can do this for themselves. Again, if children see that we have hope in our own lives, they will absorb that like the tiny sponges they are. “I hope I get that job I want.” Then see you using strategies to achieve that hope, studying for a qualification or a new skill perhaps?
So, how do we know if our child has hope as a strength? Easy! They’re the children who don’t take failure personally and aren’t afraid of making mistakes. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to learn and do better. They’re also optimistic, meeting adversity, barriers, and difficulties by telling themselves, “I can do this.” “I’m not giving up” “It will be OK.”