For both kids and grown-ups, hope can be a powerful force in healing from trauma. Having hope—and maintaining hope despite difficulties—is a valuable coping strategy. When we have hope, we know what we want, we believe in our ability to get there, and we stay motivated to remain on the path toward our goal.

So what is hope?

  • Hope is a necessary ingredient, a “tool in the box,” for getting through tough times.
  • Hope is a way to focus on a specific goal. It’s having the desire and the plan to reach that goal—developing a map or pathway to get what you want, and having the motivation and strength to follow that path.
  • Hope allows you to show up for the hard work required to reach a goal (the “will and the way”) and keeps you going when faced with obstacles.
  • Hope feels good and that feeling is good for you. Anyone can learn it, and anyone can benefit from it.
  • Hope can promote happiness, better health, and school success.
  • Hope allows a person to claim power and take action, such as reaching out for help, information, and support.
  • Caring adults can model hope for children by setting goals and pursuing those as well as involving children in the pursuit of group goals.

Hope isn’t the same as:

  • Wishing (a more passive fantasy that everything will get better)
  • Positive thinking or optimism (optimism is only half of hope; you also need to believe in your power to make it so)
  • Denial or escape from reality

To help kids coping with the effects of traumatic experiences build a sense of hope, you might say:

  • What would you like to do? I will help you do it.
  • What is something you have achieved in the past? How could you ‘stretch’ your aims to go beyond that past success?
  • You can find a way to figure things out. (when kids are attempting to master simple tasks)
  • Let’s say it together: “I know what I want. I can figure it out. I can keep trying. I have what it takes. I’ll get there.” Children learn with their bodies, and gross-motor skills advance learning. Encourage children to take on powerful poses with their entire body as they chant these mantras aloud.
  • Everyone is always learning.
  • You also have people who love you and on whom you can depend.
  • Things are always changing. (You can give an example, such as, “Look, it was cloudy before and now the sun is out.”) Big feelings come and go, so you will not always feel this way.
  • You know ways to help yourself, and you are learning more ways all the time.

Remember:

  • No one has to be alone. How can you work together with others to achieve your goals?
  • Reaching out and asking others for help is a hopeful act.
  • Even in very limited circumstances, you can set goals.
  • People can be amazingly resilient. You can change your own brain and train it in new ways.
  • Humans can thrive in the face of unspeakable trauma.
  • Your sense of hope belongs to you; no one can take it from you.
  • You can experience more than one feeling at a time. Even though you may be afraid or doubtful, you can be hopeful, too.
  • Think about someone you know, or a public figure or someone from history, who overcame the odds to succeed. How do you think that person remained hopeful?

Sources
Herth, Kaye. “Abbreviated Instrument to Measure Hope: Development and Psychometric Evaluation.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 17, no. 10 (1992): 1251–59.

Lopez, Shane J. Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others. Simon and Schuster, 2013.

Snyder, Charles R., Cheri Harris, John R. Anderson, Sharon A. Holleran, Lori M. Irving, Sandra T. Sigmon, Lauren Yoshinobu, June Gibb, Charyle Langelle, and Pat Harney. “The Will and the Ways: Development and Validation of an Individual-Differences Measure of Hope.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60, no. 4 (1991): 570.

Snyder, CR, Shane J Lopez, Hal S Shorey, Kevin L Rand, and David B Feldman. “Hope Theory, Measurements, and Applications to School Psychology.” School Psychology Quarterly 18, no. 2 (2003): 122.