Hope (noun.) means ‘desire or expectation of a change’, its root word being the same as that of the word ‘curve’.
Its first usage can be traced to the 12th century and by 14th-century as- hopeful(adjective.) and hopefulness(adjective.). The antonym of hope is despair.
The story Noah’s Ark is a tale of hope and the ‘Dove’ in the story carrying back a twig came to be known as the symbol of hope. Hope accompanied with faith has a spiritual basis. Hope involving positive thinking is scientific. The colour ‘yellow’ is associated with ‘hope’, just as ‘blue’ is for ‘faith’ and ‘red’ for ‘spirituality’. In many countries where a family member has gone for ‘war’, one can see yellow ribbons at their entrances symbolizing hope for their safe return home.
Psychologically, hope is a positive anticipatory emotion, experienced amidst negative or uncertain circumstances, that provides motivation to pursue outcomes not yet occurred.
It is a state of mind that we decide to maintain or adopt, we decide not to give up for fear of actual /psychological or moral consequences that may occur if we do not hope. (Dr Patricia Bruininks, The Unique Psychology of Hope.)
A child’s brain can be wired from a young age to develop hope as a response through repeated emotional lessons as learning experiences. However, these days we see that children find it difficult to empathize, cooperate, negotiate and be hopeful towards the future which has a negative outcome on their academics and interpersonal relationships leading to psychosocial and behavioural issues like alienation, violence, aggression. (Goleman, 1995)
Children learn optimism or pessimism from their experiences of success and through their interaction with parents, teachers and significant adults. An optimistic attitude is a great asset to a child as it teaches them to keep trying and not to give up. An optimistic child believes in themselves and their ability to make a difference.
Pessimists on the other hand often feel helpless and often look on the worst side of a situation.
How can children raise optimistic children?
- Be a good role model. Parents model an optimistic or pessimistic attitude by the way they react to both adverse and positive experiences in their lives.
- Help your child to experience success no matter how small. When children come to try new experiences they can draw on past experiences when they succeeded.
- Use optimistic language and explanatory style when things don’t go as you planned.
Optimists explain adverse situations in the following way.
- Adverse events are temporary rather than permanent. “It takes time to make new friends at a new school” rather than “No one likes me.”
- Situations or causes are specific, not global. “I am not so good at football” rather than “I am hopeless at sport.”
- Blame is rationalised rather than personalised. “I got a C on my test because I didn’t study” rather than “I got a C on my test because I’m stupid.”
- Avoid excessive negative exaggerations when things don’t go as planned. “You need to practice a bit more” rather than “You are hopeless”.
- Expose your children to stories and videos that have a theme of optimism, i.e. The Lion King, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Little Red Engine, The Karate Kid, and Little Giants.
- Draw your child’s attention to media and/or public figures that have overcome hardships or have persisted and achieved their dreams.
- Give encouragement for trying or having a go. So, they start to believe they are capable of success.
- Encourage children to use positive self-talk. An “I can do it” or “I’ll give it my best shot” attitude.
- Catch children when they do use pessimistic language and help them to think about things in a more rational way. Stating “You have passed all your other maths exams and you just need some extra help on this topic” could challenge “I am hopeless”.
- Build the basic foundations of optimism by encouraging kids to have a go, come to terms with both success and failure, plan for the best outcome and problem solve, have the belief and confidence to try again.
(*Reference: Seligman M. (1990) “Learned Optimism”)
Emotional Intelligence And Hope Therapy
Emotional Intelligence recognizes ‘hope’ as the ability to maintain an optimistic outlook in the face of disappointment and difficulties.
Hope Therapy incorporates positive self-talking, thinking about the future in a more positive way and connections with a supportive network instead of dwelling on the unpleasant past.
For it is enduring the winter chill, that sparks the development of buds of a cherry tree and enables them to bloom on the arrival of spring.