Raise an op­ti­mist! Tips for rais­ing an op­ti­mistic child

The most pre­cious gift you can give your child is not an ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tion or a size­able in­her­i­tance – it is equip­ping him with self-es­teem and op­ti­mism to help him through life’s ups and downs, says Terésa Coetzee

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

PES­SIMISTIC CHIL­DREN ARE more prone to suf­fer from de­pres­sion, ac­cord­ing to the ex­perts. Here’s what you can do to guard your child against de­pres­sion and give him a pos­i­tive out­look on life.

Be­sides a healthy body we want our chil­dren’s lives to be filled with friend­ships, love and good deeds. We want them to be ea­ger to learn and ready to tackle new ad­ven­tures. We want them to be grate­ful for what they have and proud of the things they achieve them­selves. To crown it all we want chil­dren to be strong enough to with­stand the on­slaughts of life, like the in­evitable few fail­ures along the way.

Martin Selig­man, au­thor of The Op­ti­mistic Child, says it is pos­si­ble to raise chil­dren with those at­tributes, pro­vided you have guarded them against pes­simism and de­pres­sion from early on.

You can raise a child who be­lieves he is ca­pa­ble of mak­ing his dreams a re­al­ity. Selig­man says it is the firm be­lief that you are ca­pa­ble of do­ing or achiev­ing some­thing that sets op­ti­mists and pes­simists apart.

We prob­a­bly all know some­one who suf­fers from de­pres­sion. They do not en­joy life and if they ex­pe­ri­ence any dif­fi­culty it be­comes a huge set­back.

A pes­simistic at­ti­tude can of­ten lead to de­pres­sion, says Martin. It is scary to think that de­pres­sion is not limited to adults alone, but is fast sinking its clutches into our chil­dren. Even the slight­est prob­lem weighs heav­ily on chil­dren. They take it per­son­ally and do not know how to han­dle the prob­lem.

“Stress and trauma, bro­ken fam­i­lies, learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, al­co­hol and drug abuse and a un­healthy life­style can also give rise to de­pres­sion,” says Liesl van der Sandt, a play ther­a­pist at the Play Ther­apy Clinic in Pre­to­ria. Liesl pre­vi­ously prac­ticed abroad and worked with trau­ma­tised war refugees and or­phans in war-stricken Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

Liesl says par­ents must be mind­ful that a child has wor­ries of his own that can make him feel down. We must be care­ful not do down­play a child’s wor­ries or make their con­cerns in­valid.

The ex­perts agree that we can avoid pes­simism and de­pres­sion in chil­dren by us­ing the nec­es­sary help and tools at our dis­posal. THE SE­CRETS OF AN OP­TI­MIST

This is how you can teach your child to be an op­ti­mist: • Bad events are only tem­po­rary. If your child says, “No­body ever wants to be my friend,” teach him that it takes time to build friend­ships. • Good events are per­ma­nent, like know­ing that you’ve won be­cause you put in a lot of hard work and you prac­tised. • Cer­tain sit­u­a­tions and causes of events are spe­cific. Your child may feel that he is bad at a cer­tain sport be­cause he did not do very well. Re­mind him that it’s only a ten­nis (or other ap­pli­ca­ble sport) match that he did not do well at, and that there will be oth­ers. • Crit­i­cise un­pleas­ant ac­tions and be­hav­iours rather than the child him­self. “‘I am be­ing pun­ished be­cause I hit my sis­ter,’ is better than, ‘I am be­ing pun­ished be­cause I am a bad child’,” says Selig­man. CON­STRUC­TIVE CRIT­I­CISM

Chil­dren learn how to ob­serve the world around them mostly from their par­ents, teach­ers and coaches. They ab­sorb crit­i­cism like a sponge.

It’s a mat­ter of em­pha­sis. Instead of telling your child he is lazy, you can tell him that he is not try­ing hard enough, and that you know he can do better. Your child takes note of how you in­ter­pret their mis­takes. HOW TO BEAT DE­PRES­SION • Cre­ate a healthy fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment at home. It should be pleas­ant for your child at home. Your home should be the place where your child feels safe, loved, and com­forted and where he is com­fort­able to share his feel­ings. • Be sen­si­tive to­wards your child’s emo­tional needs so that he al­ways feels safe and loved. • Teach your child how to deal with so­cial prob­lems with­out tak­ing over the reins com­pletely. • If you have an op­ti­mistic out­look to­wards life it will rub off on your child. • Make sure your child knows that you love him un­con­di­tion­ally. • A good sup­port net­work is im­por­tant. Make sure your child knows that mom, dad, granny, grandpa and their aunts and un­cles love them too. YB

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