Hopeful vs. Stuck

I want you to think about two kids you work with…one who is resilient and happy and the other who is struggling and discouraged. Imagine if you interviewed each of them and you ask them to respond to each of these statements with a “yes” or a “no.”I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are important to me.I think I am doing pretty well.

I am doing just as well as other kids my age.

When I have a problem I can come up with lots of ways to solve it.

I believe the things I have done in the past will help me in my future.

Even when others want to quit, I want to keep trying.

Chances are the child who is resilient will respond with a “yes” to these items. The child who is struggling is more likely to say, “no”.

These items are from the Children’s Hope Scale and assess the hopefulness of adolescents.

Hopeful kids are energetic and happier. They are more satisfied with life. They do better with things like academics and achievements in sports. Hopeful kids have better relationships. They can develop many strategies to reach goals and have backup plans should they face problems along the way. Obstacles are seen as challenges to overcome by seeking support and finding alternative strategies. They are more optimistic and they tell themselves, “I can do this. I won’t give up.” These students expect good outcomes and focus on success and because of it they experience greater positive affect. They are kids who don’t take failure personally. Instead, they use it to improve their performance next time.

Stuck or discouraged kids tend to not try, have poor relationships and feel helpless. They lack energy to get things done. They don’t achieve goals primarily because they don’t set any. And, when they do set them, that’s where it stops. Why? Because they don’t have enough hope to find ways to achieve those goals or they give up when encountering barriers because they can’t think of other pathways around the obstacles or can’t get the support they need. This often results in frustration, a loss of confidence and lower self-esteem. Stuck or discouraged students don’t use past failures to improve their performance in the future.

Can you think of a hopeful student you are working with? Can you also think of a stuck or discouraged student?

Thankfully, researchers have found the majority of students in the United States are very hopeful. But what about those who aren’t? They are in your classroom, afterschool program, community center and sports team. You worry about them. You want to help them, but you don’t know how to or you’ve tried, but nothing seems to have made a difference. Worse yet, you may have given up hope on some of them.

The good news is that hope CAN BE cultivated even among students who are at risk for losing it. Developing hope is a process and students who are currently hopeless can learn to be hopeful. Next week’s blog will offer practical and proven strategies you can use to instill hope with your kids.

Helping your students cultivate hope might be one of the most important things you do for them and can significantly impact their lives for the better far into the future.