There remain Faith, Hope and Love…these three.
~ Greek Scriptures
Hope is often seen as something abstract. You can teach your child to cook, get dressed, and use a potty, but how do you teach your children hope?
The first step is often to make hope concrete. But before you concretise hope in your children, you must first understand it yourself. A good way to understand hope is by contrasting it with hopelessness.
Hopelessness often arises from disappointment. It forms and sits in our hearts like a lump. The more we feed it with negative thoughts, the more it grows. Until it becomes so large that we are unable to carry it any longer. It weighs us down until we are unable to move. And so we hunch over and finally submit to despair.
How hope works
Hope is that inner positivity. That light that we see up ahead that keeps us going. But this light does not magically appear. We must make it for ourselves. And this is why people who are in this despair often do not see it. It is because they do not have the strength to start it. Who wants to rise and make a fire when they are tired or go looking around for sticks in a cold harmattan night? Who wants to find a match when they can just hurdle into a bunch and wait for nature to take its course?
Hope gives a person inner strength, but it does not exist in a vacuum. A person must believe in something. Perhaps this is why the Bible’s Apostle Paul said that if there was no resurrection of the dead, then everything a Christian does would be baseless. This hope makes people accept to be martyrs because they know that even if they die, that is not the end.
It is the concretisation of hope that makes them avoid options that will jeopardise their chances. Hope is not incredulity. It is supported by logic and reasoning. Hope is a mindset.
So when people go through experiences that would break some, they remain unshaken because of this hope, this belief, that they will not be the ones to end it. They do not even consider it. They have to believe that there is a greater reason why they are.
For a person to find hope, they need to dig into their inner core and tap into their spiritual essence. This is why hope is not a possession of all persons.
How to teach your children hope
Hope is built. It is not something that shows up in our lives. As a parent, you have to teach your children hope. How can you do this? Help them to create future goals and then milestones that will help them achieve that goal. Teach them that each day they wake up, they have to do something that contributes towards that goal, something that grows hope. And then show them by your own examples, what you are doing to reach your own goals.
For example, ask your children what they would like to be in future. There is never a too early time to have this conversation. I recommend age 3-4. Of course, this does not need to be a heavy conversation. Document what they say, and then plot as their interests change. This can be the basis for a discussion when they feel down or disappointed by not meeting a target. Remind them that their lives have changed in the past and will change in the future. They are stronger than any disappointment because they have hope.
Practical ways to teach your children hope
How about you plant something and you and your child water it every day and talk about how it is growing or not as a family project?
Also do not shield your children from age-appropriate disappointments. For example, they cannot always get everything they want. When they ask for things and you are unable to provide it. Tell them, and let them feel disappointed, but also help them deal with the disappointment. Let’s take for instance your child wants to go to the park, you promise to take them and then something comes up. Let them know something came up and you are unable to fulfil your promise. The balance here is that you should not make it a habit to disappoint your children.
However, do your best to protect your children from toxicity. The internet is a very strange place which can easily break people. Some people might argue that the internet reflects life because people show their actual behaviours on the internet. This is true. But in real life, you hardly have such a concentration of toxic people. Nor are their behaviours rewarded as happens on the internet. So, in a way, the internet is actually alternate reality. And so, people who have not built strength and resilience do not need to be there. So, protect your children from that, until they are ready.
Keep hope alive
Hope is “to want something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think that it might.” It is a feeling and a desire. All over the world, there are proverbs and sayings centred around hope. The Russians say “It never winters in the land of hope.” In Africa, we say, “No matter how long the night is, the morning is sure to come.” And the Italians believe, “Hope is the last thing ever lost.” And for the Irish? “Hope is the physician of each misery.”
If there is one thing these sayings underscore, it is that hope is what keeps us all going. During these dark times, when coronavirus is doing a number on each of us. When we think there is no reason to go on. One thing that keeps us going is hope. Hope that there will be a better tomorrow. Belief that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel. Knowing this too shall pass.