Raising a Hopeful Child
Across cultures, religions, communities and ages, one thing that all parents have in common is that they want their child to be happy. As a parent, it can be hard to watch your child face challenges and difficulties in their lives. While these may not be things that you can shield them from, you can teach them how to recover from these phases. You can teach them how to develop a sense of resilience, and most important, a sense of hope.
Psychologists state that a key factor in building a sense of hope in children is to allow them, to guide them when they face obstacles or problem situations, as opposed to solving it for the child. You could think over your child at his or her current age and try and use anything they are currently experiencing as an opportunity to build a sense of hope.
C.R. Snyder, a prominent psychologist who studied hope theorized that there are different components to developing a sense of hope:
Individuals need to learn how to form goals for themselves, as these provide their plans with a sense of direction and an end to work towards. It also gives them a certain direction in which to channel their energies and focus.
Do think over things that are important to your child at present. Is there something that is a source of worry or something that they have expressed a need for in the recent past?
Whether it is your pre-school child wanting a particular dessert after dinner or a teenager trying to form career goals, you can use their needs and desires to help them formulate goals that are meaningful for themselves.
A goal should be something that the child wants, sees value in, and is willing to invest some amount of time and effort into gaining. You could help your child form a goal by asking questions like why they want/need that particular object, what is the value they see it adding to their lives and when do they want to attain it by
Individuals also need to learn how to develop thoughts that serve as pathways to help them achieve these goals. These involve the skills of planning specific steps, routes and courses of action they can take to achieve the goals that they have set for themselves.
Once your child has settled on a goal for themselves, you can then help them build a pathway to these goals. Help them plan out how they want to achieve it without telling them how to. For instance, if it is something they want to buy – where would they want to buy it from? If it involves some amount of saving on their part, how much will they save, and how long will it take them to save up enough? When would they want to then make the purchase? From where would they purchase it?
While the reality may be that you may pitch in significantly to purchase the item, just getting your child in the habit of visualizing pathways they can take to obtain things they want is an important factor in helping them feel a sense of confidence and hope.
A very important factor in developing hope is a sense of agency. This refers to a sense of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities that serve as motivation to reach or achieve a particular goal.
A child’s sense of agency and support play an important factor in how well they react to obstacles, which arise in their pursuit of meaningful goals. Children with a high sense of agency are able to view obstacles as situations to learn and grow from. Children with a low sense of agency may get demotivated in the face of obstacles and tend to abandon their goals.
By regularly having discussions with your child to have them visualize and plan different pathways to get their goal, you are helping them develop a sense of confidence as well. Assuming that the object they want to purchase isn’t available in the store of their choice, you can then prepare them to plan for alternative sources where the object can be bought, or identifying when the item may next be available.
By engaging them in this line of thinking, you are also helping your child develop a sense of resourcefulness, which is linked with maintain a sense of hope and positivity in challenging situations.
As you can see, an underlying factor in instilling your child with a sense of hope is asking the right questions that help them develop solutions, alternatives and options for themselves. Creating multiple options/goals, and multiple ways to help them get there will help your child gain thee ability to create opportunities for themselves, and therefore continue to keep a sense of hope alive in themselves.
Snyder, C. "Hope Theory: Rainbows in the Mind." Psychological Inquiry. 13.4 (2002): 249-275. Print