When Atlanta's High Museum of Art presented a Picasso exhibit four years ago, Timothy Elliott, Ph.D., and his wife, Nancy, got in the car with their girls and drove more than three hours from their home outside Birmingham, AL, to see the great artist's works. Nancy, an art teacher, provided the running explanation of the paintings. But the conversation with their daughters, Natalie, then 13, and Victoria, then 8, revolved around more than technique and style.
Such lessons help explain how their older daughter kept to her aspiration of writing poetry despite peer pressure to conform to a more conventional female image. "We were living in a suburb where girls were supposed to be cheerleaders," says her father. Instead of abandoning her dreams, Natalie switched to another school, where she could make new friends. Then she decided to take a plunge and applied to the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. She got in -- and went on to win Princeton University's Poetry Prize for 11th-graders last year.
The path Natalie took is an example of how hope can change lives. Being hopeful means thinking that things can be better, that we can make them better, says Dr. Elliott, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. "By instilling hope, we teach our kids that they're not merely passive recipients of everything that happens," he says.