Do you think hope is an essential aspect of human existence? And if it is, should we start thinking about helping children in feeling more hopeful?
First, let’s define what hope is. Farran, et al. (1995) define hope in the following way: “Hope is an essential experience of the human condition that functions as a way of feeling, a way of thinking, a way of behaving, and a way of relating to oneself and one’s world. Hope has the ability to be fluid in its expectations, and in the event that the desired object or outcome does not occur, hope can still be present” (p. 6). This definition clearly indicates that hope is something extremely important, something that we almost cannot live without. In everything we do, such as relating to others, taking up big projects, starting a new relationship, hope is an underlining and huge ingredient.
Why would it be important to think about how we can help children in feeling more hopeful nowadays? We all know what happened with children’s well-being due to the covid situation and remote learning, no sports, etc. We all heard the stories of teenagers committing suicide and these stories broke our hearts. Although I am not a psychologist, it’s very clear to me that hope was probably most likely missing in the lives of these teenagers. Therefore, in the light of all the circumstances and unpredictability that have intensified more than ever before in our lives, I think that helping children in being more hopeful is not only warranted but also crucial.
I remember when a couple of months ago I saw a research presentation in which researchers who research hope in educational settings showed the audience how the classroom can be easily infused with natural elements that have the potential to pronounce hope. I saw a little green tree growing and stretching its limbs in the classroom. How does this tree symbolize hope? Think about the last time you went to the woods or just took a walk in nature. Nature is hope because it allows us to breathe freely and admire it as something incredibly powerful and stable in the world. Why don’t we bring more elements like that to the classroom?During the presentation I also immediately thought about the aspect of therapy dogs and how significantly they can contribute to hope. Dogs are animals children interact with daily in their homes. If you bring a dog to the classroom, the classroom transforms from something that is not natural to something that has the elements of the natural world. As a result, a hopeful experience emerges.
The question now is if we can use technology to help in providing hopeful experiences to children. I think that not only we can but we have to. I think it is more important than ever before that people who understand child development, developers developing technologies, and researchers who research educational settings finally start merging their areas of expertise and seriously think how to help children gain more hope. The following questions are potentially crucial to ask: What activities can help children be more hopeful? How can we create activities that will prompt children to engage in hopeful thinking and relating to each other? This is a very difficult task but we just cannot afford to put it off.
As the Carmel’s Therapy Dog app is in its testing period, we hope that pretty soon, when it reaches many children, it will be able to contribute to creating hopeful experiences.
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