Learning how to manage negative thoughts can help manage anxiety and low mood. When children are feeling low or anxious, often their thoughts are to blame. They may have developed automatic negative thinking patterns and their thoughts could be extreme or unrealistic. These can be called Negative Automatic Thoughts and this becomes negative self-talk. Self-talk is the inner voice we all have going on inside our heads and children are no different. This self-talk can be positive or negative and often when children are experiencing anxiety, sadness or anger their self-talk is negative. Our thoughts can then affect our feelings and behaviour and vice versa. This can be a negative or positive cycle. Remember the Magic Circle?
Examples of negative Self-Talk
- “Nobody likes me”
- “Everything always goes wrong for me”
- “If I am late for school, the teacher won’t like me”
- “They think I’m stupid”
Negative thoughts often increase anxious or unhappy feelings. One way to help your child is to help them use positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is useful because it can help your child:
- Feel more relaxed
- Feel more confident
- Keep trying rather than giving up or avoiding doing things
Positive self-talk is useful if your child is about to do something that usually worries them or they find difficult. At these difficult times, help your child to repeat positive self-talk statements that are encouraging to themselves.
We are not always very good at praising ourselves for being successful. Positive self-talk is a way of helping us to take more notice of our achievements. For example:
- Negative Self-Talk – “I’ll never be able to do all this homework, its too much to do.”
- Positive Self-Talk – “I’ll do the first one and then the next one….I don’t have to do all of it at once.”
- Negative Self-Talk – “No one wants to be my friend.”
- Positive Self-Talk – “I am a good friend and other children will want to be with me.”
Positive self-talk helps us to recognise that although things may not be perfect, they may be better than we think, and we are too!
You could use our Positive Self-Talk Cards, or make some of your own.
Stopping negative thinking in our children can be tricky and we need more than one way to help stop these thought intruding into our child’s thinking. Thought Stopping is another way to help your child. Try these steps with your child.
- Immediately and loudly say STOP
- Some people find it useful to emphasise this by banging the table or by holding a chair or table tightly
- Have an image of a hand with STOP THAT THOUGHT on it
- Challenge the thought straight away. Take away its power. It can only have power over your child if they believe it
- Replace it with a Positive self-statement straight away