Aug 4, 2014

Retaining optimism in front of Pandora's box

When I was young, I was pretty optimistic.

Not so much when I was a kid - my parents will tell you I lay awake at night worrying about the plight of the elephants in Africa and whether I'd grow up to be poor (guess what, I did!!)

But in my twenties, I do remember I was pretty laid back, tended to look on the bright side, believed that people were good, found everything fascinating (that part I still have) and was confident that everything would turn out well.

I'm a person now who is more pessimistic, but I do still tend to think things will work out okay. Except when I am engulfed by panic that they won't.

I think one of the jobs you have as a parent is to try and instill an optimistic frame of mind in your kids. I say try, because of course life is hard and circumstances can be bleak. But I do think most parents try.

But in this digital, 24-hour, instant-access world, and in the face of war and strife all over the world, how do you retain optimism and instill it in your kids?

It often seems now that we know too much. We are no longer cushioned by parochialism or ignorance - Pandora's Box has been opened and all the awful information of the world is constantly in our heads.

How do you retain optimism in the face of that?

Now that my kids are eight and a half, I don't shelter them from the news as I used to. It's important they know about climate change, war, asylum seekers, poverty, corruption, ineptitude, hypocrisy and the like. Though perhaps not all at once.  In the last year or so we've had discussions about all these things, and the kids have heard more through school and friends, and often ask questions.

But lately, just in the last couple of months, I have found myself once more switching off the news when they're around, as I used to when they were younger.

The last couple of months have been horrifying: the loss of flight MH30, the shooting down of MH17, the ongoing atrocities in Iraq and Syria and fresh ones in Gaza. The pictures circulating on Twitter and Facebook are truly horrific. And that's not even to mention the depressing state of politics at home, and growing poverty everywhere. Or how about the surrogate baby abandoned by its parents in Thailand? (The baby is arguably in a much better place with his loving surrogate mother, but what about the impact on both children when they grow up and learn what happened?)

If only...
Taken from The Age, Sunday 3 August

I know, I know - bad things happen all the time, and people have always despaired at the state of the world. I truly don't know if we are in a Dark Age right now, if it seems that way because of the constant global information and because we know so much more, or if the state of the world is no better or worse than it ever was. I can't tell. No one can, it seems. But I know, anecdotally, through conversations, Facebook, Twitter and blogs, that plenty of people are finding it all quite overwhelming.

image encountered in Facebook and all over internet

I guess the way I try and do it is to limit the bad news to my kids when it seems there's been too much, and to focus on the good stuff in my conversations with them. Every now and then of course, a topic is truly bleak, and you can't shy away from that or pretend there's a "bright side". All you can do is talk it through, or minimise it if appropriate, and otherwise throw as much positive, good stuff at them as you can find.

How do you retain optimisim?


  1. JACKIE, contemporary worls is so crazy and so horrible in some parts of the world. I believe switching off the news is the best idea. Personally I don't watch news on TV I love reading books or use the Net. Watching TV for me is so stressful and what about children? You are wonderful parent.

    1. Thank you! Agree, I do often limit my news intake at least via TV.

  2. Retain optimism....I'm not sure that I do. I think getting older has become a good thing. Imagine if you were just starting out as a brand new little human and facing the planet falling apart as it is.

  3. I try, not always successfully, to remember that there are as many people doing good things as bad.
    And look for small beauties. And fun. And chocolate.
    And my ever expanding girth is an indicator that I use the final panacea too often.



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