How Do We Inspire Optimism In Our Children?

Optimism Is Difficult To Visualize

After The Parkland Shooting

The cornerstone of this blog is about hope. The young people who are marching out of schools and demanding change test our hopes for today, tomorrow, and the future. We watch them with high expectations and optimism that one day soon we can assure our children we have done everything possible to protect them. But, have we?

Optimism grows in the heart.
Hope and confidence ground our optimism for the future

Tears filled my eyes as I watched the students in Florida on February twenty-first. Governor Rick Scott’s office turned them away because he was too busy to talk to them about the coffins filled with their friends and teachers. Is this the model of leadership we want them to aspire to one day emulate? (We found out later that he was actually out-of-the-office at the time.)

Thousands of young people are marching to make the leaders of this country take notice of a problem we’ve ignored because we believe in the right to carry weapons.

Yes, if our country is under siege, we should bear arms.

Yes, if someone threatens our family, we have the right to protect them.

For yet another week in my life, I’ve suffered significant stress caused by the actions of one person who caused the deaths of innocent people. The anger I’m seeing from people on both sides does not represent the country I love. We are not acting like the people who are capable of modeling a democracy to the world. Somehow, we’ve failed, and I can’t help but believe profits and foreign intervention have driven this tragedy behind the scenes.

One Boy’s Commitment

Thousands of kids are calling for change. They don’t want to sit idly by until another tragedy hits.

The story of Tanai Bernard, an educator from Texas who shared insights from her son on February sixteenth, was stunning. Tanai is a typical mother who believed she needed to have a discussion with her son about school safety. She wasn’t sure if the teachers discussed the topic in his school. What he told her, shook her to her very foundation.

Tanai’s son Dez went into great detail about the school shooting drills he’d taken part in at his school. Also, he described what his teacher would do and what the students would do in the event of an active shooter.

As he went into great detail about how he would push a table against the door and then stand in front of the other students, his mother registered shock. Was her son actually forced to potentially place his life on the line for others?

Dez calmly explained to his mother that he volunteered to stand in front of his friends. “If it came down to it, I would rather be the one that died protecting my friends then have an entire class die, and I be the only one that lived,” he said.

Optimism In Our Children’s Future

Kids need a break from the tragedy of today’s news cycle. Monitor what they are watching and listening to on their televisions, phones, and computers. Subject them to positive programming and interactions.

Listen to your kids and answer their questions without providing details they don’t need to hear. Unless you understand what has triggered their fear, you can’t adequately respond in a way that will comfort them and give them hope for tomorrow.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep. None of us can control the reactions to these types of tragedies. The worst thing you can do now is to tell your children you won’t let it happen again. There are too many unknowns in this world for any of us to make that kind of statement. Instead, assure them you will do everything in your power to protect them and to make sure they are in the safest environment possible. We can’t be there every minute of every day.

Don’t talk to friends or colleagues about the events in front of your children. Your insecurity will only intensify their fears.

Allow your children to make suggestions on what they can do to stay safe. Write them down and post those suggestions somewhere they will see them every day.

Inspire your child to take other actions. Depending on their age, they can say a prayer, help distribute petitions, write an essay to help kids who have been affected. There’s always something constructive to do that will give them hope.

Let them know however tragic these stories are, that the potential for it happening in their school is still extremely small.

Create a Memorial

The most significant sense of optimism for me as a child was when my grandfather helped me construct the “I Can.” That act of faith and hope inspired me to survive the abuse of my childhood and the devastating disability that stole five years of my adult life.

Plant a bush or tree in memory of those lost.

Donate a book to your local library in memory of those lost in Florida.

Have your child volunteer to help with a local girl scout or boy scout project or help with a church school class.

Offer to help them pick up trash at a local park.

It doesn’t matter what you do in memory of the kids and teachers lost. What matters is that you do something.

Be Safe. Be Loved. Pass It On!



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