Are You An Optimistic Parent? (Here’s Why You Should Be)
Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? If you are an optimist, you just might be giving your child an edge.
A number of recent studies have looked at the effects of parental optimism on family functioning, especially when times are tough economically. These studies have tracked families and kids over time and examined parental behavior and kid outcomes.
The results have been consistent. While economic stress can have lots of negative effects on everyone in the family, families with optimistic moms were protected from the stress. Specifically, these moms suffered less emotional distress and showed more warmth toward their kids. And similarly, the kids did better over time, both in terms of having less emotional problems, and functioning better in school.
These findings are not surprising given the many decades of research on the very real effects of optimism on health and behavior. Optimists fare better whenever they are faced with challenges, as they practice what is known as “adaptive coping.” They take on the realities of their situation, and try to seek out ways that they can make that situation better. Research continues to show that this is the case with heart disease – optimists show better recovery from cardiac events and in fact are less likely to experience them. This isn’t just a matter of feeling better – rather optimism translates into facing problems head on, accepting them, and dealing with them proactively.
Every family, and child, is going to face bumps in the road, and possibly hard times. Being an optimistic parent not only translates into handling these situations more successfully, but also helping your child do the same. Now not everyone is optimistic – but that doesn’t mean the pessimists have to stay pessimists. It takes some work, but convincing yourself that seeing the glass as half full has benefits is a good first step. And going out of your way to find something – even little things – that help to maintain a positive attitude can keep you motivated to work through the setbacks. There’s no magic bullet here, but changing what you can and embracing positivity can serve not only as a buffer for you and your kids, but also as a platform for getting through hard times and hanging on long enough to see things improve. And it’s a trait that will be a good thing for your kids to rely on as they grow up.