Experts agree that there are five building blocks of optimism, writes Michael Grose, author of eight parenting books:
- Having a go and persisting with something
- Practising skills
- Coming to terms with success and failure
- Planning for the future
- Having the belief and confidence to try again
In general, optimists tend to explain away adverse events in the following ways:
- Adverse events are often temporary: 'It takes time to find a friend' rather than 'Nobody likes me'
- Situations or causes are usually quite specific: 'I am not so good at football' rather than 'I am hopeless at sport'
- Blame is rationalised rather than personalised: 'I was punished because I hurt my little sister' rather than 'I was punished because I am a bad child'
To promote a sense of optimism in your children, try the following four strategies:
- Lead by example and be a model of positive thinking and optimism. Let your children hear your positive self-talk.
- Challenge your children's negative or unrealistic appraisals of a situation. For instance, 'Everyone hates me, I have no friends' can be challenged with 'Sometimes it can feel like we have no friends, but you spent all morning with Melanie yesterday.'
- Teach your child to look for the good things they do, and get them to say these to themselves or out loud. They can be taught to always look for the good things in life, no matter how small.
- Teach children how to positively reframe their thoughts. When something unpleasant happens or a failure occurs, then they an actively look on the bright side. For example, 'I crashed my bike into the fence but at least I didn't hurt myself' or 'That didn't work but I will know what to do and try something else next time'