Our goal is to help train your child’s brain when they make assessments about specific situations. We need to make them aware that it is not the event or person that makes them feel a certain way; it is their thinking behind it. The more we are able to help children challenge their thoughts in an empathic manner, the more often they will challenge their own thoughts automatically.
STEP ONE: Gently challenge extreme or dramatic language:
- If your child says something like, “Everyone at school hates me. Respond with, “Hmmm. That doesn’t sound realistic. How can we make that a more realistic (balanced) statement?”
- Help them replace extreme words with balanced words and refer to the specifics. Instead, they could say, “Sometimes I feel like kids like me at school when we work on group projects, but they don’t talk to me on the playground.”
- Help your child focus on actions they can take in order to remedy the situation and avoid feeling like a helpless victim: “And I bet if we practice joining kids in talking to them about what they like, you’ll get better at making new friends.”
- Provide opportunities to empower your child through practice: “How about you try introducing yourself to kids at the park? If they are mean and reject you, we won’t take it personally and just try again until you get it.”
STEP TWO: Use and teach coping statements to your kids, such as:
- This is hard, and that’s OK.
- I have done what I can; now it is out of my hands.
- One day at a time.
- It’s a pain in the neck but it’s not a disaster.
- Could be worse.
- It’s not life-threatening; it’s not important.
- If it’s beyond my control, let it go.
- I’m not going to let this unhappy person spoil my day.
- I only need to compare myself with myself.
- S/he is not perfect and neither am I.
- It takes two to tango; there must have been something I did to encourage this situation. What can I change?
- People aren’t born evil; what is going on that makes this person treat me this way?
- Justice is in the eye of the beholder.
- I can learn life lessons (good or bad) from this situation.
- In 5 years, will this even matter?