Mark Nepo writes beautifully about the experience of life. In The Book of Awakening, he writes about an elusive sea anemone on the deep ocean floor that looks like a “watery blossom. It is white lace opening under tons of black, opening as if bathed in the sun, while so far from the sun. That is the trick to staying well, isn’t it: to feel the sun even in the dark. To not lose the truth of things when they go out of view.”
Not losing the truth of things when they go out of view is also the essence of hope.
Having hope is intertwined with having resilience, our own agency, confidence and faith. Hope keeps us buoyant. Hope keeps us feeling the sun even in the dark. How can we inspire hope in our children so that they can wrap themselves in that lifejacket when seas are rough? Here are a few ways.
Let mistakes be for learning not for punishing. Making a mistake and then revising your approach is how you learn. It is how you become secure in knowing that you can handle problems; that you can get off track, adjust your course and continue to go for what you want. Making a mistake is not a failure. It is a readjustment.
When children are punished for making mistakes, they shy away from healthy risks. They see things only as win and lose, diminishing their creativity and limiting their world view.
Guide them to repair the ruptures. Upsets and disagreements can become the pathway to closeness when there is repair. Repair is more than an apology. Repair is acknowledging your part and how you will do it differently the next time.
The repair says that you care and that you are accountable. Repairs clearly let others know what they can count on you for. Your child will embody this by watching you make repairs.
Assist them in being aware of their own resourcefulness and to see others as a resource. Ask questions of them rather than attempting to fix or answer it for them. “How would you like to handle this? Knowing what you know now, how would you do it differently the next time? What is the result that you want?”
With creative questions asked with curiosity, they will not only gain confidence in their own resourcefulness, but they will also recognize you as a dependable, safe resource. They will see that they are not alone in moving through the world.
Honor their agency. Micromanaging, fixing and demanding diminish their agency. Have faith in their capabilities. Catch yourself making a demand, getting overinvolved or solving things for them. Then remind yourself of the things that they are doing well.
Have faith in them and faith in yourself as a parent. Reread the paragraph about making mistakes. Then reread the paragraph about resourcefulness.
Allow yourself to be a student as well as a leader, and let your child know when and what you learn from them. It is important to be specific. For instance, I recognized my daughter’s perseverance in solving a programming problem and let her know that she inspired me to persevere.
I acknowledge when her humor uplifts me. Admiring her adventurous spirit and her strength, I let her know how proud I am for her of how she is steering her steady course. What are you learning from your child, your greatest teacher? Whatever it may be, let them know!
With these steps, we can inspire and instill hope, one of the greatest acts of love that we can give as parents.