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Turning a Pessimist into an Optimist

[BOLD "\\"The party won't be any fun.\\"
\\"It's totally going to rain.\\"
\\"We'll never get there on time.\\"

"] Why do some kids seem to be negative beyond their years? Some are born that way, while others pick it up from their parents. Bad life experiences -- like doing poorly in school or losing friends -- can also lead them to expect the worst.

Of course, no one's cheerful all the time. But research shows pessimistic children may do worse in school and have more health problems than optimistic ones. The good news is, you can help children learn to look on the bright side:

Plan something fun every week, whether it's taking a walk together or going out for ice cream. "When kids feel secure in their parents' love, they expect the world to treat them positively,"says Jane Gillham, Ph.D., codirector of the Penn Resiliency Project at the University of Pennsylvania.

Challenge your child's assumptions. When he says, "I know I'll have a bad time at the party," say, "Maybe, but maybe not. Is there anyone you're looking forward to seeing there? Will there be cool things to do?"

Broaden his horizons. Negative kids may refuse to go places, like a school trip or an extracurricular activity, because they're convinced they'll feel awkward or have a bad time. But if they do stay home, they miss out on the chance to be pleasantly surprised. So tell your child, "As your parent, I am making you go. If you don't have a good time, you can blame me."

Be upbeat yourself. Then it's more likely he'll be, too.