Helping Your Child Find Hope During Times of Crisis
We are living in a world where teaching kids to have hope is more important than ever. When kids are overwhelmed or afraid due to things going on in the world, or in their lives, focusing their attention on hope can help them to cope and thrive. When it comes to hope, words are not enough. It is important that as parents, we not only talk about what hope is, but show them what it really means to have hope, and how to find it.
“Hope is the belief that circumstances will get better. It’s not a wish for things to get better — it’s the actual belief, the knowledge that things will get better, no matter how big or small.” (Psychology Today)
Hope can be looked at in three different ways; as an emotion that you feel, as a way to motivate you to take action and reach a goal, or as a coping mechanism during times of loss. Hope leads to optimism. It can be a catalyst to get us to create other behaviors that do make things a little easier when life is challenging. Hope helps us to feel less miserable or afraid when we are faced with the challenges that are bound to come up throughout our lifetime. Founder and researcher into the science of hope and pioneer into the positive psychology movement, Professor Charles Richard Snyder, has a twist on the old saying...when the going gets tough, the hopeful keep going."
Why is hope important?
After decades of research, hope is considered necessity and predictor of good mental health. Not only can life be more enjoyable for children (and adults alike), but experts say, hope also provides resilience against things like post-traumatic stress disorder, childhood anxiety and depression, and suicidal ideation. Hope not only helps children get through the tough times but also helps them persevere toward everyday goals. In addition to the psychological benefits, there are chemical benefits to having hope. It releases endorphins which lower stress levels. This leads to increased productivity and improves motivation to do well and try new things. In other words, children who have more hope do better in school and maintain better social relationships.
How do teach your child about hope
Know that your child is watching you. As a parent, you play a key role in teaching your child what it looks like to have hope. Learn how to be hopeful yourself. Pay attention to how you respond to set backs in your life. Model for your child positive ways to respond to these setbacks. When you are going through a difficult time, talk it out with your child (if it is appropriate). Let your child hear your thought process. I promise. They are listening.
Read to your child stories about hope. Talk about characters from your child's favorite books and discuss how they showed hope. Check out this link for books that you can use to talk about hope. You can also Google books about hope and there are a ton more to choose from. My favorite is A Flicker of Hope by Julia Cook.
Teach your child problem how to stop and think when faced with a challenge. Role play different challenges that they may face and different responses for the situation. Discuss what responses would be most effective for the situation.
Promote generosity. Have your child do an act of service or kindness. To promote the value of hope in children, you must also teach them to give without expecting anything in return.
Introduce famous people that showed hope during times of crisis. Discuss their situation and what they can learn from them the next time they are faced with a challenge. Here is a video that you can watch together with your child.
Have your child grow a plant or a flower. You may be thinking ..."how can this help my child learn about hope?" Taking the time to watch something grow teaches children that sometimes you have a wait a while and be patient while still having hope for your desired outcome.
Make or build something. Give your child materials and have them create these materials into something else. Building and/or making is hopeful because it shows kids they can change things by taking what is in front of them and working to turn it into something more . . . something better.
Examples: mixing ingredients together to make a tasty treat, using fabric and thread to make something they can wear, or turning a worn tire and rope into a swing.
Think of others who are hopeful. Have your child make a list of their friends or family members that demonstrate hope. Have your child write a letter to those people letting them know that they appreciate them and that they admire them for the hope that they have, especially during difficult times.
Teach your child to be grateful. Ask your child to think about three things for which they are grateful for before they go to bed at night. Better yet, encourage your child to start a gratitude journal. By thinking about things we are grateful for, helps us to focus less on things that we don't have.
Talk about the strengths that your child has. Discuss how these strengths can help them overcome specific challenges.
I hope that you find these suggestions and activities to be helpful. If you have additional suggestion for activities that you are doing to cultivate hope in your child, I'd love to know.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions and/or concerns about your child's social or emotional well-being.