We had a very interesting and adventurous start to our day one cold and drizzly morning this February. We were on our way to school when we suddenly found ourselves sitting in the shoulder of the George Bush Turnpike with a flat tire. Not fun! Surprisingly enough we were back on our way within 30 minutes and we only had to stand in the rain for ten of those. As we were on our way again I made the statement, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.” My youngest immediately responded with, “What do you mean, Mom?! That was HORRIBLE!”
Ah, that’s my girl. She is a bright and bubbly thing, but she also has a flair for the dramatic and a tendency to focus on the negative. Part of it is her personality, but I want to help her learn that how you think makes a big difference in how you feel. It means the difference between having a HORRIBLE morning that leads to a BAD day, or having a bit of a challenging start that also had many hidden blessings in it. So I took that moment to model some optimism.
First, I acknowledged how she was feeling: “Yes, baby, that was not fun, and I wish it hadn’t happened.” Then I moved into showing her the good things that happened to us even in the challenge: “But you know what, I noticed that God was looking out for us today. Let’s say a quick prayer to thank Him. Lord, thank you for sending us that gentleman who took the risk to drive in the shoulder to tell us we had a problem so our tire didn’t blow out. Thank you for giving us a nice big piece of shoulder to pull off on so we were safe even in the traffic. Thank you for sending the Tollway Authority person so quickly and with all of the tools needed to help us so fast. Thank you, Lord, for looking out for us, even in the rain.”
There are a few very important things to remember when doing this, so as not to have it backfire on you. Remember, I am talking about MODELING optimism. It is about showing your children how you handle the difficult situations that happen to you, NOT about telling them how to look at the bright side of something bad that has happened to them. In those situations, it is most important to start with lots of empathy, and little advice, or you run the risk of being insensitive and shutting down their willingness to share. (It’s like telling a stage 2 cancer patient that at least it is not stage 3. They may be thinking that, but they don’t need to hear it from you. Not cool.) Hopefully, once they feel understood they will start to look for the blessings on their own, and that is much more likely to happen if you have been regularly modeling it for them.
There will be times in your life when it is going to be really, really hard to find anything positive to model for your children. That moment came for me 2 years ago when that youngest daughter of mine was in the hospital with a new diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. There were some days early on in the diagnosis that seemed like there were no blessings left to find. In those moments I could still show that I knew God was with us and that I would trust Him to see us through. In that moment, I was able to realize that there was at least one blessing left after all.
So you see, it is really important for us to show our children that we can find blessings, even when things are hard. Not only is it good for them, but it is good for our outlook, too! My youngest still tends to jump to the worst, but I’m hoping that over time she will start to step back and try to see things from a new perspective. So even though some rain showers in life cannot be avoided, maybe she will see that without them there would be no rainbows (and, that in the meantime, God has packed her an umbrella.)