Dealing with difficulties is a challenge that many have never been taught to handle. Optimism is rarely a trait that comes naturally, though some might be so blessed, the rest of us have to learn it and it’s a skill that parents can help with.
If you would like to better understand how to raise optimistic kids then you might want to know what Dr. Deepika Chopra, PsyD, a clinical psychologist had to tell Romper in an email.
“Optimism is much more about resiliency, overcoming struggles, and being able to hold a feeling of frustration, anger, disappointment or sadness,” Dr. Chopra said. “At the very same time, it means holding space for hope that something better will come, which is so important especially now.”
So if you’re looking for ways to have a more cheerful child, these tips can help your kiddo have a glass-half-full attitude.
1. Model Good Behavior
If you feel like your child is a carbon copy of you, there’s a good reason for that. Children often parrot what we say and do — sometimes for the good, and sometimes, for the bad. “Children learn by watching us, so try to model optimism for your them,” advises Chopra. “Avoid using negative or permanently pessimistic phrases when speaking in front of your child to advocate for a more optimistic outlook and approach to life.” So the next time you’re feeling frazzled, for example, you can say something like, “I am so frustrated right now, but I know this won’t last forever.” This helps kids realize that many things are temporary, and it shifts the focus towards overcoming less-than-ideal situations.
2. Look For Happiness
There’s a reason why the founding fathers wrote about the “pursuit of happiness” in the Constitution. Feeling good isn’t a forever state, and in order to be happy, you need to actively seek it out. Chopra advises to go on a “happiness hunt” of sorts. “Similar to Eye Spy, point out the things around you that make you happy,” she says. “Make it a game with your family and see how many things do make you feel happier in your life.” It might be something as simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood or even eating some ice cream, but helping your child to proactively seek out happiness can make them more optimistic about life.
3. Get Outside
If you’re ever feeling in a slump, strap on your sneaks and head outside with your kid. Spending time in the great outdoors is a natural mood booster. “Encouraging your child to exercise or stay active everyday will help your child release endorphins, which is a natural way to increase happiness,” says Chopra. “Combining these two elements will make for a more optimistic child.”
4. Show Resiliency
Let’s face it: common core math isn’t for the faint of heart. So in those moments when your child might want to throw in the towel, help them to channel their inner superhero and be persistent. Says Chopra, “Don’t shy away from things that might seem hard or intimidating at first. Focus on how we can grow from hardship, and the good that comes from adversity and overcoming failure.”
5. Do Something For Your Community
There’s something about being a do-gooder that feels, well, good. That’s why inspiring your child to do good things for people can really make them feel optimistic and hopeful. You and your child can work together to figure out how they want to help the community; it might be shopping for an elderly neighbor or sitting with a kid at lunch who’s new to the neighborhood. “Do something empathic and kind for someone else, and talk to your children about how that made them feel, and how that made the recipient feel,” says Dr. Chopra. “Discuss the ways in which your child can better your community, and how those ideas can contribute to a positive mentality.”
6. Practice Mindfulness
When your child is stressed out about school or other issues, it’s time for them (you included) to take a breath — literally. “Children who are feeling anxious should learn to focus on their breath,” Dr. Tonya Crombie, author of Stop Worrying About Your Anxious Child, tells Romper in an email. “When it’s done correctly, it truly works to calm a child (or an adult) in a matter of minutes.” But quick, shallow breaths won’t do here; you’ll need to take long, slow, and deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Being able to breathe well can help a child readjust their thinking, relax them, and make them feel better about whatever was bugging them before.
7. Learn How To Stay Calm
Keeping your cool is an integral part to raising an optimistic child. “Learning to stay calm in the moment is the foundation to optimism about the future,” says Crombie. “Without learning basic tools to calm an anxious mind, it is very difficult to feel OK right now, much less optimistic about the future.” And when you (or your child) are calmer, then you can open yourself up to planning positive things for the future.
8. Adopt An Attitude Of Gratitude
If you’re looking to have a happier kid, you’ll need to find ways to build gratitude into your day. “Parents can create times to share things they’re grateful for and to ask their children about the things they’re grateful for as well,” advises Crombie. “Learning to practice gratitude is also a foundational skill for creating an optimistic outlook.” By practicing gratitude, you’ll be able to train your brain to find the good things and be grateful for them.
9. Encourage Your Kid To Be Creative
A great way to open the doors to optimism is by allowing your child the room to be creative. “Art is a skill that shows up in many forms in life from singing, drawing, painting, building, or even creating with clay,” Dr. Elizabeth Jennings, a pediatric occupational therapist tells Romper in an email. “Parents should encourage kids by purchasing craft books or looking up creative and fun ideas to use their hands to create beautiful masterpieces.” And when kids tap into their natural talents, they’ll feel happy expressing themselves.
10. Share Inspirational Stories
Sometimes, it feels like all doom and gloom everywhere, and that can unwittingly seep into your family’s collective psyche. But there are lots of good things happening every single day, too, and it’s important to show your child that. So take the time to show your child something inspirational and motivational to counterbalance any negative news reports they might be seeing, advises Jennings. “Parents can take time to look up or research inspirational real-life stories of kids or youth role models, share those stories with kids, and talk about them openly,” she says. “By allowing kids to freely explore options through exposure and open-mindedness, there are no limits to what kids can accomplish.”
Your child is going to experience a wide range of emotions, that is just the way life goes, and it’s okay and healthy for them to feel those emotions. But it is also important that they know how to respond to those emotions, which is where parents come in.
Letting them learn for themselves is certainly one way to handle it, but this does occasionally lead to big trouble, being an example for them matters; guiding them is even more powerful. If you can help them hone in on happiness, it will not only help them through life, it will also help you start to feel happier and optimistic yourself.