There are few things in this world more powerful than hope. Hope can bring endurance for today, knowing that tomorrow is coming. Hope can look at darkness with expectation, knowing that stars shine brightest when it’s dark. Hope provides perspective and encouragement to look beyond what we see and believe in a better outcome. So even though we have endured some dark times, we can be hopeful as we look to the future. Life will stabilize and we will bounce back. However, just as a car eventually runs low on fuel, so too can our families run low on hope. Unfortunately, there is no RaceTrac, Valero, Quik Trip or Kroger that has a hope station next to their gas station. We cannot pay someone to refill our families’ hope tanks. Only we can do it. So, grab a sharpie and a gas can, write the word HOPE on it, and let’s discuss 3 ways that we as parents can keep our ‘hope cans’ filled; while refilling our kids’ and teens’ if they are running low.
Move the Finish Line Closer –
Running a marathon can be a daunting challenge; running to the end of the block, however, is a much more attainable endeavor. As the old adage says, how do you eat an elephant? Well… don’t! That meat would be way too tough, and also, how many elephants have you seen outside lately? Nevertheless, the saying accurately concludes that you eat it ‘one bite at a time.’ An elephant is simply too big to conquer all at once. Likewise, hopelessness often grows when a goal constantly appears to be elephant-sized; or the end seems to be a marathon away, instead of a block away. So, to borrow a football term, our job as parents is to ‘move the chains’ for our kids and teens. To bring them hope by showing them that they’ve made immense progress! That even though they are probably not where they want to be, they are much further than where they used to be. This perspective can be encouraging as they begin to see that the ‘back to normal’ gap has gotten significantly smaller.
Adversity has its Advantages –
With sports having been non-existent for quite some time, The Last Dance, a Michael Jordan documentary, has been helpful in scratching the proverbial itch many sports fans currently have. In Episode 1, we learned that Michael was cut from his basketball team as a sophomore in high school. He also failed multiple times in the NBA before finally becoming a champion. The adversity he faced helped to propel him to work and become who many consider to be the greatest basketball player of all time. Without adversity, his story may have been very different. See, adversity is seldom invited to the potluck, yet when it does show up, it often brings perseverance, toughness and grit with it. These are qualities that we all need and appreciate as parents, and so do our kids and teens. Teaching them to anticipate the advantages in adversity can help them remain hopeful and motivated to rise above life’s various challenges.
Model Optimism –
Have you ever been in a meeting, or at a social function, where someone walks in and immediately it feels like the air’s been let out of the room? You’re not a mind reader, but in that moment, you undoubtedly know what everyone’s thinking – ‘Oh boy, here we go again.’ On the other hand, there are people that can walk into a room and completely brighten up that environment. That’s because emotions oftentimes are caught, not taught. Optimism, as well as pessimism, is usually contagious. As a result, how we look at life often mirrors how our kids and teens will look at life. Do we view the glass as half full, or half empty? Or maybe we overlook the liquid altogether because we dislike the glass it’s in. Research shows that our attitude has a powerful influence on the mood of others, even if they’re strangers. If that is the case, imagine how much more our demeanor impacts our kids and teens, who look to us for guidance? About a year ago, my 3 year old daughter taught me this in real-time. One day, as we were playing together, I pretended to be sad. Little did I know the effect that would have on her. She ran to me, hugged on my neck, and didn’t let go until a smile was on my face again. Since then, I’ve brought out the ‘sad face’ many times, and she frequently responds the same way. This demonstrated an invaluable lesson; my perceived emotions weigh heavily on my kids, and they respond to it. They may not know how I’m feeling inwardly, but they are very perceptive to how I’m displaying my feelings outwardly. So, how is your emotional temperature? Are you just feeling hopeful and optimistic, or are you visibly modeling hope and optimism? Our kids and teens are watching and ready to respond in kind.
So, how’s your hope tank? Are you filled? On half a tank?
Or are you frantically looking at the exits in desperate need of a ‘hope station?’ How are your kids and teens? Are they in a healthy routine, with outlets to express their concerns and be refilled as needed? Or are they parked on the couch, unable to quite get in gear because they’re low on hope? Quite frankly, our current circumstances can be emotionally taxing, and the weight of it can seem overbearing, yet, tomorrow will come. Life will stabilize and we will bounce back. Let’s continue to remain hopeful, realizing that as we model optimism and hope, our kids and teens will likely follow suit and come out much stronger as a result.