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Teach Your Children To Be Optimists

There are people whose outlook on life always tends to be optimistic and others who can't help but be pessimistic even when things are going well.

Researchers don't know why, but Karen Reivich, resiliency researcher and co-director of the Positive Psychology Center at University of Pennsylvania, says that optimism can be instilled in children.

Optimism, Reivich said, is a critical skill, but only 42 percent of kids believe they will achieve goals.

"The good news about optimism is it's a skill," she told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "No matter how optimistic you are at first, you can learn a set of skills to learn your optimism."

Reivich said that optimistic children have fewer symptoms of depression, less anxiety and are more resilient. She said that parents should view optimism not just as a sunny outlook, but a way for children to problem-solve if things don't go their way.

"It's not about boosting our kids, it's about helping them to figure out what will they do if they don't win, focus on the positive, hope for the best. But if they don't win, how are they going to cope with that? Optimism is about coping," she said. "Put it in perspective. If you don't win that game, what's one thing can you do differently for the next game to increase the chances you'll succeed?"

Reivich said to take kids on a happiness scavenger hunt. Have them write down things they encounter that make them smile. Later that day at dinner or before bed, read the list with your child.

"That helps them notice and appreciate the good things," Reivich said.

Another way to instill more optimism in children is to make them believe in their skills.

"When I take my youngest, who's 3, to the market, I plop her in the cart and rather than entertain her with Barney songs, I give her a job. Her job is cart organizer," Reivich said. "I take them off the shelf, hand them to my daughter and she has to find a way to make it all fit. That teaches her I believe she has skills that can help us reach our goal. She internalizes that and that's a foundation of optimism."

Play a game of charades with your children and have them act out feelings or emotions. This teaches them to be aware of emotions, which Reivich said is important for optimism.

"You've got to practice this because optimism is a skill," she said. "When I hear myself being grumpy, I try to catch myself and call a do-over. I say I don't like the way I do that and I want to do it again."

Learn how to plan your own happiness scavenger hunt here.

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