Changing your child’s thinking may be a helpful way to appropriately deal with day to day conflict that inevitably occurs. Have you noticed that when minor upsets in the day occur, your child has a reaction that lasts a long time? Does your child tend to think of the glass as half-empty? By challenging your child’s thoughts (and your own!) you will start to see the way that more positive thinking can improve his or her mood.
Tips to Help Your Child Think Positively:
- Challenge extremes by finding exceptions. By challenging extremes (ex. Does every single kid in the classroom really get to do that? ) you can help your child see that there are exceptions to the generalizations that he is likely making. In the example above, if your child is feeling down because some of his peers get to do something he is not allowed to do, he may utter, “but EVERYONE else gets to!” By questioning the truth of his statement in a non-threatening way, you can help him see that there are indeed exceptions. A great way to do this is by having him list a few examples.
- Ask him to find a positive, and offer suggestions. When your child is ruminating about the negative parts of his day (or anything else for that matter), ask him to find a positive. Offering suggestions of positives can help him come up with one on his own in the future, and can allow him to see that typically, positive things can exist within a situation that he views as negative. Thinking about, and saying aloud, these positive things may even encourage him to think of other positives about the same situation. Thinking positively will make him feel better.
- Change the topic, while allowing him to “feel.” Your child is entitled to feel a myriad of emotions, and to be impacted by the things that happen throughout his days. When he is feeling overly anxious or upset about a situation, he may have a difficult time thinking and talking about anything else. Validating his feelings and allowing him some time to vent is important, however you can also help by shifting the topic to something to take his mind off of the undesirable event. For example say, “I understand that you are upset about being picked last for the team in gym–that must have been tough on you, but can you tell me about what happened today in science?” Shifting the topic to one that you know he feels excited about can help him begin to think about other things, which will inevitably improve his mood.
Trying these tips our on your child hopefully can show noticeable improvements in his or her mood. By challenging his or her absolute thinking, by asking him or her to find a positive, by offering suggestions if necessary, and by sympathetically changing the topic to one you know they enjoy, your child will be changing his or her thinking to be more realistic, positive, and happy. If you have further concerns about your child’s negative thinking patterns or moods, contact a pediatric social worker.