The Umbrella Project theme for May is Optimism. This is a wonderful connection with our Catholic Education Week theme which we explored last week – Igniting Hope! Especially during these times of uncertainty, sharing hope-filled messages, reaching out and connecting with others, showing gratitude, and embracing a spirit of optimism can be uplifting for ourselves and others.
WHY DOES REALISTIC OPTIMISM MATTER? HOW DOES IT HELP US?
We often hear sayings about looking on the bright side of life. Turns out that looking on the bright side can actually help our lives seem brighter. Mix that with a realistic look at obstacles and you have a strategy for success. Realistic optimism mixes the belief that good things will happen with the knowledge that obstacles are a part of life and should be prepared for. It helps us link our dreams to the steps we will need to take to achieve them and helps us create a plan. Success can be challenging and if we defeat ourselves in our minds with a negative outlook before we get started it can really hurt our chances of reaching our goals.
At our monthly student recognition assemblies we share a slideshow that captures the Umbrella Theme for the month. The students love watching the slideshow! It gives them a chance to develop an understanding of the theme and create their mission statement for the month. Their mission statement is how they will work toward this Umbrella Theme. With this in mind, we would like to keep this tradition going. St. Daniel staff have prepared a Google Slide show focusing on Optimism including inspirational videos and images. Please see link below and explore at home with your family.
The Umbrella Project also has resources for families specific to remote learning and navigating COVID-19. These include parenting strategies to support your families well-being through uncertainty and rainy days. Please see links below:
OPTIMISM TIP #1: Help your child anticipate and plan for obstacles
Obstacles become less daunting when we have thought them through and have strategies to deal with them. When your child approaches challenging situations this month, help them think through some of the obstacles they may face and potential strategies they can use to deal with them. For example, if your child has a test at the end of the month that they are quite worried about, think through what the stress points are and then help them actively build evidence that they will be able to handle those challenges… Busy schedule? Print out the calendar for the month and have your child block out some study times in advance so they can visualize the extra time they have to study. Classroom too noisy? Help them build confidence working in a noisy environment by taking them out to a coffee shop a few times to do their homework and practice that skill. Don’t like multiple choice? Get them to study by making up a multiple choice exam for you from their material then have a good laugh together as you try to complete their test. By tying laughter and positive feelings to that style of test they are more likely to feel positive and optimistic when they experience another similar test. There are so many ways to prepare for obstacles in life while building confidence for the next time we may face a similar challenge. When possible, make the preparation something that will encourage a positive mood. Help your child feel empowered and optimistic by anticipating and preparing for challenges.
OPTIMISM TIP #2 Do something you enjoy before problem solving
It’s easy for children to obsess over the unpleasant things that happen to them. When we try to problem solve right after one of these events, it can be difficult to build optimism. Our brain naturally wants to match our memories and thoughts with the current mood we are in. Right after something unpleasant happens, it’s much more likely that our brain will turn to pessimistic thoughts. If you notice this happening with your child, help them learn to put something they enjoy in between the unpleasant event and problem solving when possible. This strategy helps to bring them back to a more positive mood which will, in turn, lead to more optimistic problem solving. It will also improve the creativity of the solutions they come up with. Just remember to come back to the problem after the enjoyable activity. This shouldn’t end in problem avoidance. It should instead teach your child that they can build optimism and better problem solving skills by intentionally improving their mood before they tackle difficult challenges.
OPTIMISM TIP #3 Consider the way you explain your own life to your child
We know that children are most likely to pick up their primary parent’s explanatory style. What does that mean? That means that if you are an optimist, your kids will likely be too. If you tend to put a negative frame on your life events, your children will also learn to interpret the world this way. This explanatory style is changeable with some easy shifts in the words you use. Temporary vs. Permanent When bad events feel permanent, it can hinder your child from believing they can change their circumstances. In contrast, when difficult events happen, as they will in every life, show your child that most of these are temporary and can be overcome with time. Start by avoiding “always” and “never” in your explanations. “This kind of thing always happens to me” feels pretty permanent. The more temporary your child sees challenging times to be, the more they will be optimistic for the future.
OPTIMISM TIP #4 Teach your child to reframe challenge
Learning to see the positives in our challenges is a technique called positive reframing. The skill is critical in helping children build optimism, even when life gets rainy. The goal isn’t to find excuses for procrastination, mean behaviour or to change reality. It is to help them find the true bright spots in their difficulties, neutralize their negative feelings and beliefs, and prepare them to move forward. How can we teach this valuable skill? As we all come to realize when we become parents, we can’t force our children to see the world a certain way. Just putting a positive frame on their difficulties for them can backfire and make them feel like we don’t understand what they are going through. Instead of giving your own positive perspective, try these two techniques to get your children thinking about their own reframe.
1.Help your child make new observations or think about the accuracy of their limiting beliefs by asking good questions. This can help them to tell a new story about what happened to them.
Here are some options:
● What was positive in the situation?
● What growth can I get from this situation? How did this event make me better?
● How can I turn this disaster into a win?
● What is the best way to act in this kind of situation?
● What went right?
● What umbrella skill can I work on building from this experience?
2. Neutralize the negative feelings with a little humour Before working through some of the questions for positive reframing, use a little humour to help them get into a positive state of mind. It will be much easier for them to see their situation in a new light
For all you have done and for all you continue to do, the entire staff wants to say THANKS! Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen! Have a great week of learning and remember to reach out if you need it. We are here for you!
Stay well, stay safe, stay connected!