Summertime brings many fun things for kids – vacations, camps, sleepovers, parties, swimming pools, lemonade stands, the list goes on. Yet most of us just allow these summer moments to pass without much thought.
You could be making a major mistake without realizing it. There is growing research that suggests that we should do everything that we can to expand the attention and energy that we give to positive moments. Here’s why:
3 Reasons Positive Moments and Emotions Need to Be Nurtured!
First, when children experience positive emotions, their brain begins to function differently. They become more open, more flexible in their thinking and their attention is broadened. The opposite occurs with negative states, such as anxiety, frustration, and sadness (i.e., Thinking is narrow, possibilities are not seen and emotional/cognitive skills are more rigid).
Secondly, positive emotions seemingly “undo” negative emotions or memories. For example, the aftermath of a painful event is dramatically improved by having a happy, pleasant experience. No therapy; just a great memory of joy… and life improves for kids.
Third, positive emotions allow children (and adults) to be more resilient. With an abundance of positive moments, research shows that children can better cope with change, adversity, and struggles. Kids recover from stress faster and remain more open to healthy, creative, and rewarding experiences.
Oh, and guess what. They are happier! They get to enjoy life more, find friends who are happier, laugh more and explore more. In every way, building optimism is good for your kids now, and even better for them as life goes on.
Thus, we want to take advantage of these summer months to build this optimism. Yes?
“Oh, but I don’t want my kid to have their head in the sand.”
There are many who would argue that all this positive talk suggests that our children live in a world of denial, where negative experiences are avoided and we pretend like they don’t exist.
This is simply pessimism fighting to stay alive. It’s the way the mind tends to work. However, this is not what I am suggesting. Denial of reality is not helpful. If you regularly read my column, then you certainly understand the priority I give to reality-based parenting, and the essential need to nurture responsibility and maintain structure.
Instead, this lesson is about using skillful parenting to get maximum value from a joyful moment. To do this, you must see beyond just the moment in front of you, and realize that you are feeding the seeds of something much bigger and more important for your children.
If we had an imaginary scale where we could rate the intensity of the impact of an experience, we would find that negative moments often impact children much more than positive moments. Research suggests that children remember negative moments longer, draw more conclusions from them (i.e., develop beliefs) and ultimately these ‘negative’ memories filter their life experience in profound ways.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Compelling research also suggests we can alter this, by changing our ‘conditioned’ tendencies of how we respond. The first goal of this series of articles is to convince you that, with intentional effort, you can impact the intensity of how an experience impacts your children. With a bit of consistency, you can use this to alter your child’s level of optimism and happiness.
The second goal is to offer you the game plan to make this happen. In next week’s article, I will review the fundamental parenting tools that allow you to do this.
Optimism or pessimism. Appreciating or complaining. Smiling or whining. Laughing or crying. Often these unfold through the filters we have conditioned in our children. I invite you to take full responsibility for doing everything you can to bring the best to your family’s emotional life.