When inexplicable or disappointing things happen, we grapple with the why. That process, and sometimes answers, evolve from spiritual reflection, scientific analysis, deep introspection, communal conversation or some combination of these.  We’re wired to figure things out,  but when we can’t,  we’re confused. Or saddened. Or we might blame. Or act out. Or dig deeper to find the lessons.  The last one comes only when we stop to recognize all the positives in our lives and focus on moving forward,  knowing we are connected to and supported by others.

There’s been a bit of writing lately on the idea of “happiness.”  Some are on a journey to be more happy, like Gretchen Rubin  or raise wonderfully happy kids (Raising Happiness).  What research and experience does consistently show is that your general outlook and sense of happiness fuels you through those times when it’s darn near impossible to just smile.  The positive energy you exert and the more positively you view your world and  contributions you and others make,  the more resilient and optimistic you can be when life throws you one of those  inevitable humdingers.  Those “bumps” are temporary.  They tend to land in front of us to teach us lessons. The rest of the time, we’ve simply got to enjoy, if not maximize, the ride.

This is why it’s important to see the best in children and life every single day. It’s critical that we help kids give life their best shot knowing that they are surrounded by others who view them as strong, capable, and known authentically for who they are at that moment.  That doesn’t mean perfection, it means having a positive outlook  and being good enough at most things, and really good at what matters most.

When we’re not focused on solving problems or working through crisis mode, our energy should  focus on refueling and building up a store of good stuff in our “emotional bank accounts.”  Keeping a focused and positive outlook is the buoy that sustains you  through the swells and murky waters.

So after a recent “bump,” here are 10 reminders about seeing the best in children and life.

  1. Empathy and Service to Others – When times are tough, it’s often helpful to think about ways to help others. Do something small, an act to cheer someone else up. Help provide for basic needs or raise funds to support a cause. You’ll feel better, too.
  2. Love of Literature – When reality gets to be too much, a good fictional story is often the perfect escape.  With young children, picture books can help them make sense of how they are feeling, what they are experiencing or what happened.
  3. Self-reliance and Confidence – Life can’t always be a bowl of cherries.   As much as we’d like to prevent our kids from experiencing failure, loss, or even struggles, we need to let them experience each of these.  They will need to rely on themselves to solve problems for years to come. So when you’re tempted to jump in and save them, give them a minute to do it themselves (within reason, of course!).
  4. Resiliency and Faith – Kids bounce back faster than adults. They need to know we have faith in them – both confidence in their skills and in their potential. Let them know we have faith that things will be okay, even if we’re a bit unsure ourselves. Sometimes this involves putting your game face on, but kids will mirror what they see and sense in us. Be brave and honest.
  5. Problem Solving –  Start small. Build confidence by letting  them take care of  small-ish things (like forgotten homework) and eventually leads to their ability to mange stress and larger problems.
  6. Passion for Learning – It can be comforting to understand the mechanics or details behind the  loss or disappointment. Even for young children who are not yet logical thinkers, having clear information (but not necessarily all the details) can provide reassurance. In some cases, it might even spur an interest in learning something new.
  7. Listening –  Sometimes we need to listen more and talk less. Adults need to be patient and learn that children are more likely speak when they are ready, not necessarily when we are ready.
  8. Play – Play is the stuff of childhood. It let’s all of us explore, relax, build relationships and skills. It’s fun, particularly when other parts of life are not so fun. Join your kids in play. It often makes listening and problem solving evolve with far less effort.
  9. Persistence –  Kids needs to have the mindset that they can do something, and know that we believe in them.  A set back in a sporting event might make  them want to shy away from the game, but with encouragement, they can make the shift to be more  determined,  try harder the next time and get back on the horse. Each small step forward builds persistence and needs acknowledgement.
  10. Creativity – Creative outlets offer a way for kids to show their emotions, express their confusion, gain clarity or to put aside things that are troubling them. It lets them relax, reflect and feel in control.

Consider this a work in progress, as there are surely more lessons to discover when life isn’t smooth sailing. What have you or a child you know learned after  a set back or loss?

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