by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.
It’s one of the most necessary preventive qualities that a father can instill in his children—giving them security, peace, confidence, and many other qualities you surely want them to have. It requires your steadfast focus and asks you to utilize a trait that, depending on your personality, could be difficult to muster.
I’m suggesting that bestowing huge amounts of hope on your children is vitally important to their current and future well-being, as much as any other gift or experience you could give them. Giving hope is like lowering a rope to someone who has fallen into a pit. Without that cable being dropped down from above, the possibility of being rescued greatly diminishes.
The current state of our culture constantly challenges your child to wrestle with the negatives of life—whether he or she is a tween, teenager, or young adult. Today’s kids are asking questions like: Will there be enough resources to secure my future? How will my safety and health be provided for? What happens if those close to me are no longer there?
Yes, dad, you can bring hope and optimism to your children’s lives, and here three ways to do that:
Tune into the culture’s messages. We may think we can protect our children from influences that go against our values—and it’s a battle worth fighting—but some of it will surely seep into their lives. So we must be vigilant about our awareness of the issues and ideas that our kids’ minds are absorbing. Our battle as fathers is to hold at bay the unhealthy, ridiculous and sometimes chaotic events and influences from media, friends, and other forces in their lives which may seem interesting and trendy to our kids, but ultimately don’t deliver on the promises they make.
The beauty of hope is that it isn’t confined to an economic, ethnic or political state; it supersedes them all. Hope is often based a bigger purpose, like an expectation of what is hoped for. This can be similar to a blessing or a word of faith which provides our kids with a reference point from a dad who has strong inner convictions.
Dig deep. If we’re going to deliver a message of hope to our sons and daughters, we need to be firmly grounded in our convictions, values, faith—whatever drives and motivates us and gives us hope. It needs to reside deeply within, so that our children see that same hope in our actions, our priorities, our passions. Our children need to have no doubts that we really mean it when we make bold, hope-filled statements like, “Things aren’t as bad as they seem,” “You’ll get through the difficulties you’re facing at school,” or, “Yes, I’ll still be your loving father no matter what decisions you make in the future.” Hope drives us to examine our own foundation in a manner that will test our faith and transform it into love, if we are willing.
Be a devoted dad. I know, you probably already are, but while you’re being a devoted dad, remember that your actions and words and presence and follow-through are sending messages of hope to your kids. Especially with young kids, setting reasonable boundaries and expectations for their behavior is instilling hope in their tender lives. For dads who volunteer at their child’s school through WATCH D.O.G.S. or a similar program, you’re delivering hope. When you attend your child’s sports event, music performance or theatre production, your presence speaks hope. And when you sit at the dinner table together, your listening ear, your smile and kinds words all convey hope.
Being a dad in today’s world is a huge task, and we all need to bring our families strong doses of hope every day. I think of the prophet Jeremiah, who delivered this message to a people in exile who had every reason to despair: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Today, regardless of our current fathering situation, we can build upon that promise, too, as we live with confidence and seek to model the attributes of hope.
Action Points for Hopeful Dads
- Find a way to serve or help someone with your child, whether it’s at a local shelter, someone you know who is in need, or simply one of your child’s friends who needs a ride home.
- Send your child a text or leave a sticky note that says something like, “Keep looking and hoping for opportunities, because they are coming soon.”
- Find a positive message on a plaque or bumper sticker—or make your own for the fridge—that says something like: “The future generation is going to be a great one.”
- Identify a specific trait you appreciate about your teen and let him know why it is unique and special.
- When your child talks about a difficult situation she or one of her friends has faced or is facing now, sincerely communicate, “I’m sorry [or saddened] to hear this.”
- Teach your kids (and practice together) the sign language expression for hope. See it here.
What helps you stay positive and hopeful with your kids? Help motivate other dads (or get some motivation) on our Facebook page.