A big part of resilience is about optimism – being able to maintain a positive attitude when we’re faced with difficult situations.
This comes more naturally to some people than others, and kids often need help to see that a situation can and will get better.
For example, a child might interpret being left out of a group as: ‘They don’t like me. I’m not worth liking. I’m not a nice person’. You can help them to shift their thinking by reminding them of times they’ve played happily with others, so they have good memories to call on.
What we think about children and how we talk about them to others in front of them also shapes how they see themselves.
Tips for building optimism
So how can we help children to develop optimism? Let’s start by looking at different sources of optimism and resilience that have been identified in the International Resilience Project. These sources can be divided into three groups: our inner personal strengths (I AM), our interpersonal skills (I CAN) and the external supports and resources available to us (I HAVE).
Within each source we’ve included some ideas for how you can help to encourage a sense of optimism in your child or young person.
The HAPPY principles
Building optimism and resilience is about feeling safe and supported while we give things a go, and these simple HAPPY principles can help. Bear in mind that the HAPPY principles are NOT about being happy all the time (it’s just a catchy acronym). It’s unrealistic to think that kids will be happy all the time and they need to be allowed to express a range of emotions. Anger, sadness and worry are just as legitimate as happiness and joy.
The HAPPY Principles are:
- Have a go: Break tasks and games into manageable chunks so children can succeed. Celebrate your child’s successes.
- Accept both success and loss: You know that sporting cliché “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game?” Focus on the learning experience rather than the outcome, and help children bounce back from disappointments.
- Practice: Allow your child to watch you practise and persevere at activities – both enjoyable things and stuff we just have to get done. This will teach them to do the same.
- Plan for the best outcome: Encourage children to think situations over and choose outcomes that are enjoyable and build confidence.
- Getting to Yes: Optimism and resilience grow from persevering and succeeding, even after setbacks.