By Dr. Russ
If you are a parent or a teacher, you may be looking for ways to teach children to be optimistic. Social science research continues to show that optimistic adults live longer and happier lives. Here are ten tips to teach children optimism.
1. Children need to encounter new life experiences without fear. New experiences teach optimism when they are fun, joyful and filled with wonderment. Then, the experiences reinforce and strengthen an internal belief that the world is a place for exploration and learning.
2. Anytime children engage in an activity that increases their belief that if they TRY to do, perform, or accomplish something, they CAN, they get a boost in optimism that is represented in the brain in permanent memory storage.
3. Anytime children put on the “creative hat” without fear of criticism and judgment they learn to pursue goals with a sense of playfulness, being in control, and that anything might be possible.
4. The more a child or adolescent feels emotionally connected and positively involved with the family and family members the more they have a sense of optimism bred by secure, stable and dependable relationships; a sense they are listened and responded to in a supportive facilitative manner.
5. The summer is a great time to learn that effortful work leads to money of which a little can be saved and a little spent. For real optimism make it up close and personal. Have a conversation with someone from a different generation, culture, economic background, or country. Find out as much as you can about how he/she views the world and feel the interconnectivity of the “human condition.”
6. In the school of the future, optimism will be learned because students will be valued not only for their academic ability, but for their ability to think creatively, to communicate ideas, to facilitate collaboration, and to think non-verbally in visual-spatial domains.
7. Can you imagine the optimism created in a classroom where teachers focus on how to learn from mistakes rather than how to avoid them?
8. The school of the future will teach optimism by valuing students for their unique individuality as one student uses her artistic talent to contribute to the solution, another, his math skills, and a third her keen political/social awareness.
9. In the school of the future, each student will learn from the other in a community of optimistic experimentation and appreciation of hard work and “mastery.”
10. Encourage children to have conversations with children and adults from different generations, cultures, economic backgrounds, or countries. Make sure they find out as much as they can about how the other views the world and see if they don’t begin to experience the interconnectivity of the “human condition.”