Role ModellingJanuary 8, 2018
Identifying FeelingsJanuary 8, 2018
It is important to remember that we are not our thoughts, we are the observers of our thoughts. This means that just because we have a thought, it does not mean that it is necessarily true or useful. We have the choice to observe our thoughts and then dismiss them. We need to raise children who can talk back to their thoughts, and make clear decisions about which thoughts to hold onto. Talking back to our thoughts may initially feel strange, but it’s about slowing the thoughts down in our heads, observing these thoughts, and then consciously choosing the best thoughts in that moment.
Our thoughts are sometimes prone to what is known as the negativity-bias (amongst other strange things), where we gravitate to negative assumptions and conclusions. This is all part of an evolutionary process which keeps us alive (you remember the bad so it doesn’t happen again... and you anticipate the worst so you don’t get hurt), but which can also be very inappropriate in certain situations.
Remember, thoughts become our feelings and behavior. When we hold on to untrue and unhelpful thoughts, we experience unnecessary feelings and often do unnecessary things.
Reframing is the ability to take a thought, investigate it, and where necessary get rid of it, or rework it, into a more accurate and helpful version. It’s a kind of panel-beating of our thoughts.
The three ‘C’s’ is an easy way for children (and adults) to practice reframing – catch, confront and change. Catch a thought and confront it by asking questions like:
• What thought am I stuck on?
• Is it true?
• Where is the evidence?
• How does this make me feel and act?
• How else could I think about this?
• How will that change the way I act and feel?
And then where necessary, change the thought.
Child: Nobody likes me.
Parent: That’s not a nice thought to have. What makes you say that?
Child: I sat by myself at lunch today. Nobody likes me.
Parent: This sounds like a thought we must talk back to. I can see it has upset you. Let’s look at the evidence – do you always sit alone?
Child: No, yesterday I sat with Mike and Jake.
Parent: And the day before that?
Child: Mike and Jake.
Parent: Did something happen at lunch today that made you not sit together?
Child: Mike and Jake wanted to play ball, and I wanted to eat my snack.
Parent: It felt lonely when you had to sit by yourself, and that isn’t a nice feeling to have. But, the evidence doesn’t point to no one liking you. It points more to the fact that sometimes people want to do different things to us, and that can be hard. What do you think you will do tomorrow?
Child: I don’t know.
We need to be careful that holding onto an untrue or unhelpful thought can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this example, if the child continued to believe that no one liked him, he more than likely would have continued to be sad and sat alone at lunch. The more he did this, the more he would have believed that no one liked him, and the less chances he would have given himself to prove this thought wrong.
There will be some hard thoughts which are true or difficult to reframe. These are longer conversations, where solutions to these thoughts or ways of making these realities easier to accept and manage are important. For example, when discovering you are not the best or good at something. Sit with your child talking through this reality, looking at ways to improve or countering with other truths (talents, skills, realities) that make this easier to accept. We can’t all be the best at everything, but we can work hard to improve or focus on things we are better at.