The Power of a Positive Attitude on Your Child’s Future – and how to help shape it!
In a year that’s seen its fair share of bad news, extreme stress and so many unknowns can make it challenging to maintain a sunny, positive outlook. This is true for both children and adults alike. But research conducted by family therapist Michael Ungar on children who have experienced traumatic events like disasters has shown that a positive future orientation (i.e., positive attitude) can have a buffering effect against possible trauma. In simpler terms, the more you can do now to help your child focus on the positive, the better chance they have of coming out of this difficult year in a happier space.
Sound like a plan? Here are 5 ways you can help your child discover optimism:
- Honor the Emotion(s):
Kids tend to have vivid imaginations, and while that is such an important developmental quality, it can also heighten their emotions. Many kids (and some adults!) haven’t yet developed all the skills they need to manage those strong feelings. While it can sometimes be frustrating for parents to manage, it’s important to acknowledge and validate the strong emotions that your child is likely to experience on a day-to-day basis.
If your child is sad or upset about something, instead of telling them to stop, or scolding them, try to acknowledge and honor the emotion they’re feeling, and help them to process the feeling so that they can move past it. Remember that a positive attitude doesn’t mean not having negative emotions, it simply means having the ability to move through those emotions to find contentment again.
If you or your child is having a rough day that feels all-consuming, set a timer for 15 minutes. During that time, encourage your child to talk about their feelings and why they feel that way. Remember that processing emotions don’t necessarily mean solving problems – just listening is often the best thing you can do to help your child move through the negative space. If your child is upset with you, try not to get defensive – just listen and let them get it out. If your child doesn’t want to talk, that’s ok too. Drawing, painting, or even just having some quiet space can also be helpful in acknowledging and moving through negative emotions.
When the timer goes off, it’s time to change the conversation to ways the situation can be improved. Once again, this could be a conversation, or it could involve writing or drawing or another processing activity. Help your child brainstorm some solutions to put them in a better space – this could be anything from helping them with a tough homework assignment to baking cookies or playing outside to stimulate those happy vibes.
Meditation has long been a powerful tool for positive thinking, but it’s only recently gained mainstream popularity. While many people still think of meditation as a person sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, palms resting on their knees – there are actually many other ways to use meditation to quiet the mind and process tough emotions. Quiet writing and drawing (as mentioned above) can also be considered a form of mediation. So can exercise, walking outside, or listening to calming music.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider downloading a meditation app on your computer or smartphone. There are hundreds of free apps available, many of which are geared specifically for kids.
From calming music to guided imagery to writing prompts, there truly is a way for every child to embrace meditation.
- Daily Intentions
Setting daily intentions is a great way to start the day – and positive activity for the whole family. Before you begin schoolwork or other daily activities, take a moment to have everybody (including you!) write down 2-3 goals for a good day. What can you do today to improve your own happiness? What can you do to improve the happiness of others?
Setting intentions is a great way to start the day on the right foot. Even if someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed, setting intentions can help turn things around and remind children that how you start doesn’t have to dictate how you finish. A tough day can always be turned around!
- Make a Plan to Overcome Negativity
While a positive attitude about the future is important, it’s also important to recognize that negative feelings can never be completely avoided. Experiencing some negativity is part of life, so the key is to help kids develop skills to overcome it.
It might feel silly but creating a plan with your kids is one way to overcome negativity and can actually be a really useful activity. Having a list of activities that they know will make them feel better gives them a toolbox to turn to when they’re feeling down. Things like listening to music, going outside, meditating, riding a bike, or taking a shower or bath are just a few ideas to help your child start their list.
Make sure to revisit and add to the list on a regular basis. Just knowing that the list is there to help them can empower your child to feel a sense of control over their emotions and their future.
- Set the Example:
At this age, children are learning rapidly and absorbing information like sponges. They are also much more perceptive than we often give them credit for. Whether you want to be or not, your child is using you as a role model, so it’s important to set a positive example when it comes to optimism and positive thinking about the future.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have a bad day – in fact, bad days are a great example for your kids. It’s important for them to see that grown-ups have bad days, too – and even more important for them to see how you handle it. Use a bad day as an opportunity to model resiliency. Show your child how you are acknowledging your feelings and using various skills to turn things around and find a more positive place. Watching you handle your own emotions is likely the best lesson your child will get in how to stay positive, even on tough days.
Remember, nobody is perfect – even the most optimistic people experience hard days, weeks, and even months. The key is acknowledging how you’re feeling and helping your kids to do the same. It’s never too late to turn things around. Raising a child that can process their emotions and triumph over negativity is such an important way to set them up for a successful future.