5 Ways Hope Can Improve Your Child’s Academic Skills

By Kathryn Goetzke

When most teachers begin planning their lessons for the week, hope is not typically at the top of their lesson plan. However, taking a bit of time each day to teach and practice hope skills can actually provide clear, measurable benefits for the students and the classroom as a whole. That is why we created a free global program, Hopeful Minds, to teach the “how-to” of hope.

Hope is defined as a vision, fueled by positive feelings and inspired action. Hope skills, such as Stress Skills, Happy Habits, and SMART goals, are the skills that help us create, maintain, and grow hope. Higher levels of hope have been linked to many positive life impacts, including increased academic achievement, athletic performance, extracurricular success, health, and resilience. While the benefits of a hope education are innumerable, we cover the top five benefits below.

  1. Higher Academic Achievement
    According to a three-year study completed in 2010, hope uniquely predicts objective academic achievement above intelligence, personality and previous academic achievement. When students have higher levels of hope, it is positively reflected in their studies.
  2. Increased Focus, Problem-Solving, and Creativity
    When students have a hopeful mindset, they can think with their prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex (also known as the upstairs brain) is where thinking, imagining and learning occur. It is also the part of the brain that is responsible for sound decision-making and planning, control over emotions and body, and self-understanding and empathy. When students experience negative emotions such as anger, fear, sadness or despair (the emotional ingredients of hopelessness), they are unable to access the benefits of their prefrontal cortex.  
  3. Improved Relationships
    When students are introduced to hope, three of the hope skills they are introduced to are empathy, kindness and forgiveness. These three skills all increase a person’s overall health and happiness and help them stay in their prefrontal cortex. Research shows that when a child lacks empathy, they lack the ability to practice self-compassion, which can result in lower self-confidence and higher rates of hopelessness. Teaching empathy, kindness and forgiveness not only benefits an individual child; it also benefits the students that they interact with. Studies show that when you perform an act of kindness, not only does it improve your hopeful mindset; it also improves the hopeful mindset of everyone who receives or witnesses the act. Teaching these hope skills also decreases bullying and strengthens peer-to-peer support systems.
  1. Increased Attendance
    Higher hope is associated with stronger immune systems and greater resilience to sickness. Additionally, higher hope decreases the likelihood of stress, anxiety and depression, all of which have been tied to increased absences from school. Therefore, the number of absences related to both physical and mental health decreases as hope increases.
  2. Greater Willingness to Learn and Grow
    Hope skills don’t just focus on positive feelings; they also focus on inspired actions. Hope skills teach the importance of passion, purpose, and setting SMART goals. They also highlight the dangers of internalizing failures and encourage students to use failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. The Happy Habits encourage students to take time to do things they enjoy and help them appreciate the wonder and awe in their surroundings and their activities. All of these skills work in harmony to encourage curiosity and enthusiasm.

What You Can Do as a Parent

As a parent, you have more sway than you think. Talk to your child’s teachers about introducing hope skills into the classroom as a regular part of the curriculum. Hope skills can provide positive impacts in your home as well. While the Hopeful Minds curriculums are designed for the school, they can be used in all types of settings, including your home or afterschool program. We have also created a Parent’s Guide to introduce parents to ways you can implement hopeful language, skills and activities in your home. Especially this year, why not try to encourage hope skills in all children?

Kathryn Goetzke, MBA, is the Founder of iFred, and the creator of Hopeful Minds, a program dedicated to teaching hope to kids free, globally. She is also the author of The Biggest Little Book About Hope, founder of Hopeful Cities, and host of The Hope Matrix Podcast.

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