For Families > Keeping Kids Healthy > Growth and Development

A New Administration: Talking with Kids About Hope and Opportunity

by Anita Gurian, PhD

Despite these days of job loss and economic hardship, the extensive television coverage of the incoming president shows an ongoing picture of the ability of this country to adapt and to re-invent itself. Active participation and responsibility, the themes of the new administration, have particular meaning to young people, who have been involved in bringing about change in innovative ways that were not possible before. The new president and his staff act as powerful role models as they are shown working in food kitchens, shelters, and other places of need.

The change in administration is a real opportunity to raise responsive and responsible children. Parents of every generation seem to moan "it wasn't like that when I was growing up" or "when I was your age." That's the good news and the bad news. The world is a different place now than at the start of the 20th century, and it is sure to change in the next century. With change come both challenges and opportunities. No challenge is more important than helping children become valuable citizens. Children with good values and a sense of responsibility grow up to be valued and responsive human beings. We offer some strategies to help parents prepare their children for changing times.

  • Help children establish a set of values to guide their actions: Children who base their actions on values suffer less from depression and anxiety than others. Prosocial values help children look to the future, help them feel connected to a larger social group, and engage in more positive behavior. This is even true for children who have been first-hand witnesses of violent acts. Many witnesses become highly empathic and very concerned about the welfare of others.

  • Help children develop a positive outlook for the future: Children and youth are generally optimistic; they have a natural tendency to see the future positively and expect that their experiences will be pleasant and fulfilling. Traumatic events can shake that optimism. However, children who believe that negative events are temporary have a much more positive outcome than children who get mired in negative views of the future. It is important that caretakers help children develop a sense of self efficacy and belief in their ability to effectively deal with stress. Children who believe that they can take steps to make their future better and who believe that adults are working to create a better world have better mental health even when they experience years of traumatic events.

Remember, our history contains many more positive times than negative times with great stages of growth often emerging following tragedy and conflict.

Date Published: January 20, 2009