“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – I Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)
In stressing the importance of love, it is easy to underemphasize the importance of hope for children. Without hope, children often lose purpose and become very unhappy.
There are symptoms to watch for in children when they lose hope. It is helpful to know the things that cause them to have no hope. What can parents do about the problem?
Children who lose hope often have the attitude of “what’s the use?” Extreme cases may even result in suicide, as is happening among so many of our teens. Children without hope become lethargic and despondent. Depression may set in and they may start withdrawing from activities.
What causes the loss of hope? One cause is expectation beyond a child’s ability. The child begins to feel defeated and inferior due to a lack of success. If children are always being scolded, they begin to feel that nothing they can do is acceptable.
Affluent children who have almost anything they could want have no incentive to work to get more. They may tend to want to stay with parents upon graduation. After all, why should they go out on their own and start with nothing when they already have what would take them perhaps years to earn. There is no hope for anything better.
When children hear adults talk about the terrible condition of the world, they tend to lose hope. Can we possibly imagine how terrible a child may feel when hearing a politician say that the world is ending in a few years? If this is true, they think, why should I study and work hard?
What can parents do to help children have hope? We should never expect more of a child than the child is able to accomplish. Giving projects that enable a child to feel instant success combats the feeling of failure. It is a real balancing act to make sure a child is doing what he/she is able to do without expecting what the child is not able to do. When there is too much punishment, children may lose hope. Perhaps that is one reason the Bible says not to provoke children to anger.
We need to be a buffer between what the child hears from TV, teachers, electronic devices, or other adults. If children are going to a public school, parents definitely need to attend parent’s night and keep in touch with what is being taught and how their children are behaving in school. They should watch carefully what their children are seeing on their devices. (The recent discussion of “Momo” bears checking out.)
The most important thing one can do is to teach that our real hope is in Christ—not this world! As Christians, we have the hope of heaven. Children need to know from parents that God loves them and has a purpose for each. Helping children understand their gifts and interests will go a long way in setting goals and giving purpose to life. Following Christ gives hope!