At times, parenting can be one of the most difficult challenges because, unfortunately, children do not come with an instruction manual. As parents, we hope that our children will grow up in a safe environment and have a happy childhood. While the chances are good that will happen, it seems increasingly difficult to achieve. We live in a changing environment that continues to put additional pressure on us and, sometimes, even more pressure on our children.
Through working with youth, I believe that hope is our greatest future. While many of our youth will never struggle with depression or suicide, some will. Those that do struggle may feel helpless and hopeless at times. When I work with the families of these children, parents always ask me, “How do I help foster hope in my child?”
One of the most important first steps is to be that role model of “hope” ourselves as parents. Daniel Wong, a speaker/writer dedicated to students’ success and happiness, has reported that if parents have emotional problems, their children are likely to have emotional problems. In addition, “unhappy people are also less effective parents” (“How to Raise a Happy, Successful Child: 25 Tips Backed by Science.” Daniel Wong. Post updated Dec. 5, 2018). By being a role model of hope, parents show their children how to positively react to and cope with different situations.
The second step in helping foster hope in our children is to read to them. As parents, we can read stories of hope with them. Child psychologist Cindy Anderson recommends that since “many children’s books have messages of hope, parents can “talk to [their children] about their favorite hero or heroine. Ask them what they like about the characters. Describe how that character shows hope and determination” (“Hopeful Thinking in Children is Important.” Hope Springs Behavioral Consultants. Posted Nov. 24, 2013).
The third step in fostering hope in our children is to have one meal a day together with our entire family with no electronics or television. Children need to have the ability to listen to our conversations, to have us interact with their thoughts and opinions, and to see that we are listening and engaging with them. While we do not always have to agree with everything being shared, we can show positive ways to agree to disagree. The adage that quality is more important that quantity is not always true anymore. Quantity time can lead to quality time.
The fourth step in fostering hope is to show our children how to problem solve. Trying to fit into the world of youth can be very difficult at times. Add the pressure of social media, and it can be taxing for young people. Helping children learn (and then showing them by example) how to problem solve in difficult situations can help them learn to be successful in difficult situations. When I’m helping parents who are worried about their child, I refer them to a website (https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/how-teach-problem-solving-strategies-kids-guide) that gives helpful information and free downloads.
These steps are only a few ways parents can foster hope in their children. Whatever steps are taken, parents should commit to taking the time to raise happy, hopeful children.
By Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall
Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall is a former high school principal, student service director and associate superintendent with the Provo City School District. He has been involved with suicide prevention for the past twenty years and has personally been involved with over forty-five suicides as a first responder or consultant
Dr. Hudnall has been an adjunct Professor for BYU for the past 15 years and was named as adjunct Professor of the year
Dr. Hudnall is a board member of the “Faith Communities Task Force National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention”
For over fifteen years Dr. Hudnall has been the team leader of a state- wide suicide crisis team that has responded to over twenty youth suicides including a fourth grader who took his life on a school campus and a suicide contagion where five students from one school took their lives
He is the founder of HOPE4UTAH, a non-profit grass roots organization dedicated to suicide prevention, intervention and postvention in Utah. The school-based program, “HOPE Squads” has been responsible for over 1,000 students referred for help
Dr. Hudnall was invited to testify before the United States Surgeon General on suicide in Utah and has trained over 40,000 Utah residents in suicide prevention, intervention and postvention
Dr. Hudnall was invited by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to present in Washington D.C. on the Circles4HOPE community mental health model at the “Dialogue on Behavior Health and Community Resilience in LDS Communities”
HOPE4UTAH was chosen by the Center for Disease Control to receive assistance in developing long-term research and evaluation
In July 2015 Dr. Hudnall was invited by Dr. David Jones from the White House to participate in a national webinar on African Americans and suicide in the U.S.
He is considered as one of Utah’s leading experts in community and school-based suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.