In light of the current global economic situation, more now than ever we must help our kids by instilling optimism in ourselves.

By: Patrick McMillan
Author, An Exercise in Happiness for Kids

Until our kids are grown and gone, we clean up after them. When our kids make a mess, we clean it up, when they get in trouble and we bail them out, and if our kids need our help we are there for them. Now the tables have turned and it just does not seem fair that we leave such a mess that our kids are not only paying for now, but will be cleaning it up for the better part of their lives. I believe we owe to our children, more now than ever, the tools to help them navigate the road that lay ahead.

We are being bombarded with pessimism and fear about the future, and we, the grown-ups of the world, need to understand our kids are not immune to it. In fact, according to Dr. Martin Seligman, author of The Optimistic Child, founder of Positive Psychology and former President of the American Psychological Association, traits of pessimism and optimism are the most highly heritable of traits we can pass on to our kids, and these traits will determine a great deal of how their lives unfold. This is not to suggest that we shield our children from the realities of our changing world by any means, in fact I am suggesting the opposite. It is crucial we develop a sense of optimism about our future and share that optimism with our children, because our future depends on it.

Now for some uplifting news! The trait of optimism can be learned, and can become a way of being for anyone willing to do what it takes to develop it. Our children will follow our lead, and given the destructive consequences of pessimism we can and should give our children the gift of optimism, which will have benefits that last a lifetime.

For decades, Dr. Martin Seligman has researched optimism. Along with many other researchers, Dr. Seligman explains optimism and pessimism as how we explain life’s events, or our “explanatory style”. This research has proven a very close relationship to how happy and healthy kids are, and how well they perform academically and in sports, by how optimistic there explanation of life events are. According to research, there are three basic dimensions to how we, and our children explain these events: permanence, pervasiveness and personalization.

Research has shown that optimism is the best buffer against depression and anxiety, so it is crucial to pay close attention to your child’s “explanatory style” and build in them hope for their future.

Author's Bio: 

Patrick McMillan is a stay at home dad, founder of and author of An Exercise in Happiness™, an interactive emotional fitness program for kids and parents.