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A Reminder of Hope

A Reminder of Hope

When we decided to call our newsletter Weather the Storm, we did not expect to find ourselves continuing to manage ‘the storm’ in such a serious circumstance a year later. Some of us at this point may have tested positive, some of us may be caregivers, some may be dealing with grief, and others may be witnessing and wondering how we can help our world battle this relentless pandemic. You may be feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or even apathy. The circumstances that we are in are not normal, and therefore what you feel right now is completely okay. 

To discuss the topic of hope, would not mean we neglect our anxiety, but to make a choice to proactively think about how to make it through the future and to expand from mere optimism. When it comes to our children, let us look at hope as a learnable, measurable skill. This outlook can help us support them in finding success regardless of the situation. 

The elephant in the room: Addressing and acknowledging the difficulties of the current scenario gives us a reality check and a starting point to work on our goals moving forward. It’s important for us to carve out time for children and allow them to share how they feel. The same way we treat our own feelings, we need to be careful not to minimize their feelings by making them feel guilty for being upset. One way to start is to help children focus on one or two things that are troubling them. Children can’t solve problems if they feel stuck and overwhelmed. A small setback can leave the children feeling overwhelmed. 

Asking the right questions: Sometimes children find it difficult to find the right words to describe how they are feeling. This may be especially difficult during challenging times. It is important to ask the right questions relevant to what the child is expressing in order to help them understand what is going on, and their role in overcoming the issue. This can also lessen the overwhelming feelings of “worst case scenario” thinking. 

Sharing positive thoughts: Having meaningful conversations with children during tough times helps them feel emotionally supported. In addition to validating how they feel, sharing examples with children about people overcoming hardships or failing repeatedly and then succeeding helps children understand that everyone doesn’t have it easy or trouble free. However, keep in mind to use examples that primarily reflect an understanding of the child’s feelings and validate their efforts to cope with what is going on. 

Savoring the moments: Although the pandemic has brought chaos into our lives it has also given us the opportunity to spend quality time with family. When possible, utilize the opportunities to engage children in framing current events/experiences as ‘moments in time’ and ones that will pass, eventually. Getting all the family members to create a time capsule or write letters to their future selves about their experiences on what progress was made and what they see ahead can be something you can do together as a family. 

Having the right mindset: Your mindset or frame of mind affects how you think, and what you do. It also helps you make sense of the world and the circumstances you are going through. When dealing with hopelessness, the situation seems to have more control over us than we have over it. Finding hope would mean that we will need to affirm our sense of control over our challenges. 

Finding new meaning: Hope does not have to be an abstract feeling that we cannot grasp. Hope can be made concrete through our beliefs, values, identity, and sense of purpose. Every situation, whether we are dealing with uncertainty, panic, or grief can be a place where we can derive new meaning for ourselves. 

As counselors, our instinct is to give pointers on how we can tackle the negativity and push forward, but it is also important to acknowledge that we are in a place where it is hard to see beyond the immediate future, and the current circumstances may seem grim. One of the biggest effects the pandemic has had is to make us feel like we will have to face things alone. It is okay to reach out beyond friends and family for support. For now, the world continues to be in a difficult state of uncertainty, but the enduring lessons of hope are ones we can carry with us moving forward.