Hope Series #1 – Hope As A Strong Protective Factor

Young kids are notorious for having big dreams and ambitions. Whether it’s for a new hamster, a trip to Disneyland, or a kickflip on a skateboard, kids spend a lot of time imagining and planning for their future.

Of course, sometimes their dreams are outlandish — think about the little kid who wants a farm filled with unicorns. Sometimes their dreams are unrealistic — the kid who wants to become a YouTube star, never hold a job, and live at the beach with all their friends when they grow up.

Dreaming, it turns out, is more than just a sweet thing kids do when they’re young — it becomes a critical part of overall wellbeing.

Hope, as defined by the researchers at Alliance for Hope, is “the belief that your future can be brighter than your past and you play a role in making it happen”.

In other words, when you’re feeling hopeful, you are confident that tomorrow will be better than today. Feeling hopeful makes whatever you’re going through today more tolerable, and the anticipation you feel for the future enables you to endure whatever challenge gets in your way.

Hope is a simple concept to understand, especially when you consider the oppositehopelessness.

You know about hopelessness, right? It’s the feeling you get on Sunday afternoon when you know you’re going to spend most of your week in pointless meetings that you can’t get out of. It’s the feeling you get about your health when you don’t stick to your plans to exercise more and eat healthier foods.

Hopelessness translates into a desire for escape. It’s too uncomfortable to feel hopeless, and the emotions of regret, shame, disappointment, sadness, and anger can drive people to activities that will numb their pain.

The encouraging news is that hope is something that we can cultivate and encourage. It acts as a protective factor against harmful substance use and is a key indicator for wellbeing and academic success.

Kids who are hopeful about their future will do better in school, have stronger relationships, make the transition to adulthood more efficiently, and make healthier choices along the way.

In the following weeks, we’re going to explore the dynamics of cultivating hope, how to model it, lead students to become more hopeful, and build a culture of hope in your family, school, and community.

Read the complementary articles in our Hope Series #2: How To Cultivate Hope and Hope Series #3: How To Model Hope.