First of all, there are so many reasons why you would want your child to be an optimist.
Any child who has plenty of enjoyable and positive experiences while growing up is more likely to grow up to become an optimistic adult. As parents / carers, we play a great role in shaping the behaviours and attitudes our children eventually develop.
We would want this for our children because any child with optimistic thinking skills are better equipped to interpret and navigate failure. This in turn will afford them a stronger sense of personal mastery.
What we don’t want is for our child to possess a sense of being that could have an adverse impact on their outlook on life in general: depressed mood, resignation, underachievement etc. These are all signs of the opposite of optimism - pessimism
As parents, we are a major influence in the thinking styles of their children’s developing minds. It for this reason that we have put together the following tips below to aid in implementing healthy mental habits in our children.
How Parents Can Help
Be an optimist yourself.
The way you lead your life and interact with others will influence your child in ways that you couldn’t achieve by trying to do so formally. Children generally learn by doing and will subconsciously take in what they see. So, charity (in this respect) starts at home. Your own thinking style as a parent, as well as how you lead your life and interact with others, will be on display to your children. They will emulate your behaviours and actions, so it will be your responsibility to make sure you show them constructive ways of dealing with life’s challenges and misfortunes. Incorporate optimism into your ways of thinking and your daily approach to life. This can be quite a challenge at times, but is definitely achievable.
Show your child the connection between their thoughts and how they feel.
This can be demonstrated by verbalising how your own thoughts about different challenges cause you to react adversely.
This could occur in many different situations, for example, at the supermarket - For example, if someone takes too much time at the checkout. You might begin to rationalise your feelings and reactions in that moment. “Now I’m going to be late because this person in front of me is taking so much time loading up and paying for their shopping. This could lead to me overstaying in the carpark, which could lead to a fine. If only they could hurry up.”
Teach your child to manage their thoughts.
This happens to most of us at certain times, when things happen which make us feel terrible about ourselves. We feel as if we have let ourselves down. This also happens to our children: that goal that wasn’t scored for whatever reason, or because they didn’t quite make the grade they were expecting. They begin to question and even doubt their efforts / abilities. They feel they have failed, or perhaps they aren’t as good as the other children. These are automatic thoughts that fill our minds in the moment and we need to help our children realise that even though that might be how it is perceived in the moment, and these thoughts might be automatic, but not necessarily true.
We should take these concerns seriously and be supportive as they learn how to cope with life’s hurts and disappointments. When your child does reach out to you with such experiences, you could ask him/her: “How did you feel when that happened?” “Why did you feel that way?”
Teaching your child how to evaluate automatic thoughts, means acknowledging that these things you say to yourself are not necessarily accurate.
Show your child how to generate a better and more positive sense of reasoning
This positive sense of reasoning should be an explanation to themselves, when faced with challenges or when bad things happen. Armed with this, they should be able to challenge their automatic but inaccurate thoughts. This process could involve looking for evidence to support the contrary e.g. positive outcomes in the past, more favourable experiences in other endeavours etc.
If you help your child to think optimistically – to downgrade the ‘catastrophic situation’, your child will come to see that this major bad event might not be half as bad, or won’t have the adverse outcome they imagined.
Infuse positivity and lots of love into your child’s life.
Show your child that you care, shower them with affection. Be sure to create a lot of happy events in their lives. Create situations where they can excel and achieve. This can be done by delegating age-appropriate tasks for them to do around the house. This will give them a sense of accomplishment, once achieved.
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