Your child’s feelings and behaviors are influenced by how they think about the world around them. As a parent, you can help your child avoid unhelpful interpretations of events: thinking traps. Getting stuck in thinking traps can make your child feel overly anxious and act against their own best interests. Kids can fall into habits with how they think. Their self-talk is so automatic, they may barely notice. You may need to work with them to identify their typical unhelpful self-talk as a step in the process of teaching alternative, more helpful thinking. See this post for guidance in identifying anxious self-talk. Just the other day we heard Ella complain that her parents never punished her younger sister Lucy. Ella sounded angry and she went right over and hit her sister. Well, you can guess what happened next. Yep, Ella was sent to her room. Although the middle of an upset is not a good time to teach alternative ways of thinking, after all was calm, Ella’s parents talked to her about her thinking traps. Black-and-White Thinking They pointed out that she had recently been using the word NEVER in her statements. They taught her that these kinds of extreme words result in BLACK-and-WHITE thinking. They helped her challenge her unhelpful thoughts with alternatives. They reminded Ella of all the shades of grey between black and white; how, as the older child, she is held to a higher standard, but she is also given more privileges. As they talked with Ella, she began to seem less envious of her sister and appreciative of the nuances of how parents relate to siblings of different ages. Many children use BLACK-and-WHITE thinking in a self-critical way, such as “I’m not good at math.” These statements are extreme and describe a permanent state of affairs. While it is not necessary to state the opposite (I’m good at math), less extreme and less permanent self-talk are both helpful and hopeful. When a child falls into a thinking trap and describes themselves as not smart, not athletic, or the like, talk with them about challenging these BLACK-and-WHITE, SELF-CRITICAL thoughts. For example, “no one will want me in the play after that mistake” could be changed to “The audience didn’t seem to notice that I skipped some words.” By changing FOREVER thoughts to FOR NOW thoughts, children develop a more open, flexible, and realistic mindset. “I always get put on the losing team” is a stuck, FOREVER thought. Change this FOREVER thought to a FOR NOW thought such as “I’ll be at the top of my age group next season.” Catastrophic Thinking Theo missed blocking a shot in soccer and went home with such CATASTROPHIC thinking that he believed he would never play any sport again! CATASTROPHIC thoughts are like snowballs that grow as they roll down the hill picking up snow along the way. This style of thinking involves predicting the future. “If I raise my hand and get the answer wrong, I’ll be soRead More
Think of the last time you felt anxious. Whether you were dreading an upcoming work presentation, worrying about finances, or thinking about an impending doctor’s appointment, you likely experienced an urge to avoid the stressor in some way, perhaps by procrastinating, thinking about something else, or putting off the appointment. Avoiding anxiety provoking situations is a hard-wired human instinct that can be very helpful at times, such as keeping us from walking down an isolated dark alley alone at night. However, avoidance can also be a slippery slope-particularly when it is a child’s primary way of coping with worry.Read More
Help Your Little Worrier Stay Calm
A Feel Better Book for Little Worriers helps children understand what worries are and what to do when they are feeling worried. From verses that demonstrate body awareness to coping strategies for kids, A Feel Better Book is not only enjoyable for children to read, but also helpful for both children and caregivers. To learn more about how you can help your child cope with worries, check out our article Stress Management Exercises for Anxious Children.
We all have cloudy days when challenges roll in, but some people seem to move through them more easily than others. People who adapt well to stress, recover quickly from challenges, and are even strengthened by difficult circumstances are called resilient.Read More