Optimism is not smiley-face balloons and tickled Elmos but rather, experts believe, a practical skill that can help kids negotiate a lifetime of challenges. “Optimism is a positive feeling about the future—a confidence and faith that things will work out,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., a sociologist at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents ($15,amazon.com).
Bolstered by that confidence and faith, optimists see their troubles as temporary and don’t take them personally. For example, if a friend doesn’t sit with her on the bus, an optimistic child will conclude that her pal just wanted to catch up with the girl three seats back. “Optimists don’t attach big explanations to little events,” says Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., a psychologist in Philadelphia and the author of Freeing Your Child From Negative Thinking ($16,amazon.com). “They don’t supersize problems.”
In contrast, “when something goes wrong, a kid with a pessimistic mind-set thinks that meanseverything will go wrong—and that she must have done something to make it happen,” says Chansky. In the bus example, a pessimistic child will think, She must hate me. I’m so boring. No one ever wants to be my friend.
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