On our morning walks to his elementary school, my son Parrish and I do lots of nexting. We talk about his next basketball game, the next movie we’ll watch, our next family trip. Nexting comes naturally to kids. It seems to pique their curiosity and give them little boosts of joy.

Nexting is my way of practicing hope with Parrish, an eight-year old. By encouraging him to talk about the future, I find out what he is excited about. I learn about his plots and plans, and I help him come up with lots of ideas for how to make things happen. If I identify some gaps in his thinking, I can explore his “wonderfully horrible ideas” jokingly. That gives us a chance to discuss why some of his strategies may not be appropriate and to pivot to one of his other ideas.

Talking about the next important event in Parrish’s life also lets me gauge whether he is confident, nervous, joyful, fearful, or downright giddy. When he is feeling positive, his mom Alli and I do our best to “fluff him up” even more. We know the emotional lift helps him think about ways to make his performance better, the best it can be. When we see that he is nervous or fearful, we try to figure out why, and whether we need to intervene or let him work it out. In all this, Alli and I avoid automatic cheerleading and easy reassurances. If we see obstacles and pitfalls, we address them together, and sometimes we work with him to regoal.

On a good day of nexting, we talk about his dreams, plans, and feelings, and Parrish enjoys practicing the how of hope. He gets better at thinking about the future, and I get more excited about what lies ahead for our family.

What is your child nexting about today? Take her for a walking and find out. He are three questions that can take you to then:

What is the next thing you are looking forward to?

How can I help make that happen?

What else can I do to help?

About the Author

Shane J. Lopez Ph.D.

Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D., Gallup Senior Scientist in Residence and Research Director of the Clifton Strengths School. His book, Making Hope Happen will be published in March 2013.

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