Recently an elementary school teacher shared they were getting suicide prevention training, because suicide rates for children were rising so drastically. There are many reasons for the rise in suicides, but one contributing factor is often that the person has lost all hope. While raising hope-filled kids won’t guarantee they will never commit suicide or harm themselves in other ways, it does greatly improve the chances they will be less likely to feel there is no hope in their lives or their worlds.
Although some children seem to be more naturally hope-filled than others, any child can become more hopeful when taught some important principles and skill sets. While there are probably many things you can do to give your kids hope, here are a few of my favorites:
- Tell your kids the story of Jesus over and over. Teach them how the hope of eternal life in Heaven gives us hope during the bad times on earth. Understanding that bad times are for “a season” – even if that season is years – gives your child that “light at the end of the tunnel”. Often that alone is enough to give hope. As they grow older and mature, your kids can better understand the extra measure of support and hope that is found in a relationship with God.
- Help your children memorize Bible verses that give them hope. There are a lot that specifically mention hope, but each of your kids may find their hope in verses that don’t even mention the word. Surround them with these verses. I also encourage memorization because the verse will be in their minds whenever they need it for encouragement.
- Teach your kids how to find safe, godly people they can talk to during tough times. You might not always be available when your kids are stressed or feel hopeless. It’s crucial you have taught them how to discern who can give them godly advice and keep them safe during a crisis. Too many young people are turning to peers unequipped to help them or people who have negative ulterior motives. You don’t want the people to whom your child talks to make the situation worse than it already is at the moment. Teaching them how to find godly people to help is a crucial Christian life skill.
- Teach your kids how to pray their emotions, fears and worries to God. Share some of David’s Psalms with them as examples. Encourage them to tell God what is on their hearts. He can help them process those emotions.
- Teach your kids to analyze their problems and see if there is anything they can do to improve things. Society teaches your kids they are victims and there is nothing they can do to improve things. Fortunately, for many problems, there is at least some small thing your kids can do to make a positive difference. Teach them how to dissect the problem and find what they can change and then do something towards changing that factor.
- Teach your kids to find ways to serve others when times are tough. Part of what causes hopelessness is becoming fixated and almost obsessed with the problem(s). Helping others is not only a great distraction, it can also help put things in perspective.
- Help your kids find a type of exercise they enjoy and encourage them to exercise regularly. Studies have shown exercise has great stress relieving benefits. It’s crucial though, they find something they enjoy doing. If they hate to run, the last thing they will want to do during a stressful time is go running.
- Help your kids count their blessings and think about things in the future that are exciting. Philippians 4:8 is in the Bible for many reasons. Thinking on things that are good, funny, lovely and generally positive, can also make your kids moods more positive. If nothing else, it can distract them from becoming fixated on their problems.
- If one of your kids appears to have lost hope for two or more weeks or is interested in hurting himself/herself, talk with your child’s doctor. Some children may need professional help to become hope-filled. Medical conditions can cause all sorts of changes in the brain that can cause depression and feelings of hopelessness. When in doubt, it’s always better to seek medical help and find out it wasn’t necessary, than to wait until it is too late.
Taking the time to proactively teach your kids how to find hope is a lot easier than helping them find an unknown hope in the midst of despair. It really is worth your time and effort.