In my last post, I discussed hope as a way of looking at life, and specifically a trait that we can learn and develop.  Today, I want to consider some ways that we can practice that trait, as well as helping our kids be more hopeful.

1.         Practice being grateful.  I know our kids often think that they don’t have much to be grateful about.  Sometimes we can’t try to encourage them without making the problem worse.  After all, if they had the family that they want to be grateful for, we wouldn’t be in their lives.  But we can model gratitude for them by focusing on the good things in our lives.  We also can find things about them that we appreciate and then tell our kids what those things are.  I want to repeat that last thought — we should tell our kids what we appreciate about them.  Those words will do more than anything else we can say to help them feel hopeful about their future.

2.         Surround yourself with positive people.  We need to find people who support and encourage us.  We can’t always avoid toxic co-workers, relatives, or ex-spouses.  But the more time we can spend around positive people, the more resources we will have to deal with negative influences.

3.         Remember self-care.  It seems we discuss this topic every other week, but it is the foundation of our ability to cope with setbacks.  We also need to show our kids how to care for themselves and replenish their emotional resources on a regular basis.  They need to understand, for example, the dangers of social media, too much screen time, and not enough exercise.  Help them find ways that work for them to recharge their batteries.

4.         Set goals and make plans.  Having a long to-do list can seem overwhelming, but it’s actually better than not having any direction at all.  One of the important characteristics of hope is that it allows you to actually move toward a better future.  Knowing where you want to move to and strategies for getting there are essential to being hopeful.  The best way for our kids to understand that concept is for them to see us living it out.

5.         Focus on solutions.  We all find ourselves in the middle of big problems, and our kids have seen more than their fair share.  We always need to give ourselves time to grieve for our lost dreams, but we won’t accomplish anything by staying in that place.  Similarly, we have to give our kids plenty of time to process their emotions and their problems.  At the same time, we have to gently, very gently encourage them to start focusing on solutions to those problems.  Seeing even small successes is the best way for them to find hope for moving forward.

6.         Help others.  This final tip may be the most important way to practice hope.  Helping other people moves our focus off ourselves and our problems and opens us up to listening to others.  The process will be just as powerful for our kids (as long as we leave them free to learn without our lectures).  Service projects also can make our kids part of a community, as well as help them practice how to make friends and build relationships.  

Remaining hopeful is a skill that we and our kids can practice and learn through repetition.  These techniques can help our children build resilience and hope that will carry them through many tough times of life.


Debbie Ausburn

Helping foster parents and stepparents learn how to be the person who is not supposed to be there.