Parenting by the Book

by Sylvia Cochran

Book Review of The Optimistic Child

kids playing The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience

Martin E. P. Seligman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 0618918094

The Uplift Program reports that the array of depressive disorders affects more than 18 million Americans each year. It is alarming that the fastest growing population groups of depressed Americans are preschoolers. At this time, approximately four percent of American preschoolers – or in excess of one million children – carry a diagnosis of clinical depression.

Parents see this alarming statistic lived out on a daily basis. Children’s friends have medicine cabinets filled with prescriptions. Talk among parents on playground benches deals with medicine adjustments and dosage problems. Mom or dad may even notice depressed moods and behaviors in their own children.

This is where The Optimistic Child comes in.

The author’s premise is the idea of “immunizing kids psychologically.” Growing up in the watershed days just before the discovery and wide availability of the polio vaccine, Dr. Martin Seligman knows all about the power of simple and relatively painless immunizations. Attempting to transfer this concept from the realm of the physical to the area of the psychological, his approach deserves a second look.

The Optimistic Child reveals that pessimism and the onset of depression are closely related.

Children naturally dwell on failures, problems and fears. The monster under the bed, the mean attitudes of peers and the setback on the playground all turn into pessimistic attitudes in many a child’s mind. In some kids, they go from there and develop into life-altering forms of depression.

Thus, the common sense antidote demands that children ‘learn’ to be optimistic and view the sippy-cup of milk as half-full rather than half-empty. Yet how can a parent (or teacher, caregiver or friend) teach a person to be optimistic?

The Optimistic Child offers sound advice and workable suggestions.

It offers clinical advice on what makes up ‘optimism,’ how to rate its presence or absence and also how to support its formation. The author takes a parent through the steps needed to help a child verbalize differently, walk through an event and see the good as opposed to merely the bad and also how to present himself differently when interacting with others.

It is interesting to note that The Optimistic Child is grounded even as it advocates techniques on raising a child with a positive outlook on life. The author warns parents to not allow an unrealistic form of optimism to take hold to the detriment of an honest evaluation of real life circumstances. This feature alone makes the book worthwhile to parents (with or without a spiritual background) intent on inoculating their children – as much as possible – against a debilitating form of depression.

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