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How to Raise an Optimistic Human in a Pessimistic World

If you’re raising kids today, it can be easy to focus on the negative. And it’s no wonder. Due to the 24-hour news cycle, social media and cellphone notifications — and even sources you wouldn’t expect, such as Instagram and YouTube — kids are immersed in doom and gloom.

Consider their world. The suicide rate is up, cyberbullying is rampant, the United States is more divided than ever, and people are now live-streaming murder and suicide. So it’s understandable if you don’t feel like putting on a happy face every day and keeping your kids optimistic about the future.

But don’t give up. Even though media and technology seem to be the cause of our collective pessimism, they’re also essential for overcoming it, by either using them wisely or knowing when to put them away. Here are six ways to help kids find the silver lining in every cloud.

Put things in perspective. Parents understand that the media amplifies things for eyeballs and clicks. But kids don’t necessarily get the relationships among sources, sponsors, and audience. How you respond to news makes a difference in how kids process it, too.

Talk about what you’re grateful for. Counter defeatist attitudes by nurturing your kid’s character. Strong character grounds kids when the world feels chaotic. Take the time to share what you’re grateful for.

Fight fake news. Confusion, doubt, lack of trust — these things get in the way of being optimistic. But kids have the tools to fight fake news. They can use online fact-checking tools to discover the truth (or at least uncover the fraud). They can refuse to contribute to the spread of false information by not sharing stuff they can’t verify. And they can call out dubious claims when they see them.

Stand up to cyberbullies. Teach your child that the buck stops with them. When they see someone getting bullied — and it happens all the time in texts, on social media and in online games — they shouldn’t just stand by.

Stamp out hate speech.  Hate speech hurts people, contributes to an overall negative environment and is sometimes a cry for help from someone in crisis. Explain how to handle hate speech: Don’t respond to it, block people who do it, report offenders and don’t share it.

Tune out the world for a while.  Simply being together, whether it’s to read, have a device-free dinner or talk about an issue, recharges you and sends your kids the message that family time takes precedence over everything else. 

Excerpted from “How to Raise an Optimistic Human in a Pessimistic World,” a blog post published on Common Sense Media and written by Common Sense Media’s parenting editor, Caroline Knorr. Read the full blog post for more details on each of the above recommendations.

Source: Common Sense Media | How to Raise an Optimistic Human in a Pessimistic World, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-to-raise-an-optimistic-human-in-a-pessimistic-world | © Common Sense Media.

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