Think of two children you have regular contact with; one who is resilient and happy, and one who is struggling and languishing. Imagine you are interviewing each of them, and you ask them to respond to each of these six questionnaire items:
- I think I am doing pretty well
- I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are important to me
- I am doing just as well as other kids my age
- When I have a problem I can come up with lots of ways to solve it
- I think the things I have done in the past will help me in the future
- Even when others want to quit, I can find ways to solve the problem
Chances are that the child who is resilient will respond affirmatively to these items. The child who is struggling is more likely to say ‘no’ than ‘yes.’
These items are from the Children’s Hope Scale, and they assess the hopefulness of children and teens. In terms of resilience and wellbeing, hope is a critically important predictor of how our children are going.
Kids who are hopeful are happier. They are more satisfied with life. They even do better with things like academic and athletic achievement and success.
And if you don’t have hope, well, you’re hope-less. That’s related to all the things we don’t want for our children; depression, anxiety, poor relationships, and lousy academic outcomes.
How to help hope
We can encourage hope by focusing on three things; goals, pathways, and self-belief.
Speak to your children about their possible futures. What do they want to achieve, and why? Talk to them about what they’re looking forward to. Ask them what they want to have, do, and be.
Work on plans (or pathways)
When your child says, “I want to be a marine biologist,” ask them, “What do you need to do to get there?” Discuss pathways, options, and possibilities. Thinking about the future and making plans is central in fostering hope.
When they’re stuck, ask them, “What do you think is the next best thing to do?” or “When have you overcome something like this before?” These types of questions promote a sense of agency or efficacy. Rather than having our children rely on us for all of the answers, they can rely on themselves, their resourcefulness, and their initiative. This is a resilient and empowering approach to guide our children.
As parents, our wish for our children is that they will grow up happy and resilient. Our wish can become ‘hope’ when we use these three keys to build hope in them as they look towards the future.