Is Negative Thinking A Problem?
My son struggles with negative thinking and it hurts as a parent to hear him say these things. He constantly says, “I’m not good enough.” “No one cares about me.” “I just suck.” It breaks my heart as a mom to hear him saying these things over and over. Of course, I always try to say, “No, you’re not.” “People care about you.” Or simply, “I love you.” We get caught up in this cycle, and I don’t always know how to get him to stop the negative thinking.
I want an easy way to stop negative thinking; don’t you?
The problem with all of these negative thoughts is that it becomes automatic. It becomes like a habit. Whenever his mind slows down, these thoughts just come in. They play continuously, like a reel that keeps playing over and over. Negative thoughts plant the seeds from which anxiety and depression grow.
If this sounds like your child or teen, then you want to fix it for them. Since it has become a habit, it’s going to take deliberate actions to change the habit. And it won’t happen overnight. But it will happen! You can train their brain to think differently.
Steps To Retrain The Brain
First Step – Gather Details
Your first step is to recognize this habit and take note of when and where it happens. Take time to write down the day, time and situation that happens when your child/teen is most apt to think negatively. You might notice some patterns, but you also might notice that it is unpredictable. That’s okay! You are getting good information.
Another part of this first step is to also notice exactly what your child is saying. This is really important because it will help you later to develop some positive affirmations to support them. So, go ahead and write down what you hear them saying. Record it somewhere private so they don’t feel ashamed.
Second Step – Call A Halt
Once you recognize when, where and what your child is saying to themselves, you need to find a way to “call a halt.” This means that you need to help them stop the repetitive negative thinking and talking. By saying things like, “It’s time to stop repeating that to yourself,” Or “Ok, let’s give it a rest, now.” You are not judging them, but are pointing out that the negative thinking should be controlled by them.
What if they can’t stop? Yes, it isn’t just a matter of telling them to stop and the negative thinking goes away. But by pointing out that stopping their thoughts is an option, you are reminding them of the control that is within their power.
Third Step – Reverse Course
Here’s where you can really make progress for your child/teen. It’s time to replace the negative thinking with positive alternatives. Take that list you made of their negative statements and turn them into positives.
Positive affirmations can help interrupt this negative thinking and create a new process. It gives the brain a new path to focus on. Affirmations are short sentences that can repeated every day that support and encourage the positive thinking. They boost self confidence and a growth mindset.
These can be incorporated as part of a morning routine, or used right before a stressful situation. Because my son struggles at night quite a bit while his mind is calming down from the day, as a result, he has incorporated it into his bedtime routine.
- I am brave.
- I am kind.
- People like me.
- Today is going to be a good day.
- I can handle anything that happens today.
- I am beautiful.
- I am smart.
- I am a good friend.
- I am strong.
- I am creative.
- I learn from my mistakes.
- I am funny.
- I am awesome
- I choose my attitude.
- I matter.
- I will do great things today.
- Today, I choose happy.
- I believe in myself.
Choose the Right Affirmations
Help your child identify some of the negative thoughts that they think most often. Then find a way to turn that into a positive. For instance, my son says, “No one likes me.” Then we choose affirmations such as “I am a good friend.” “I matter.” “People like me.”
There is no magic number of how many affirmations someone should say every day. Start with a few, and make them automatic and then start to add more.
As you develop the affirmations that work best for your child/teen find ways to post them around the house or get them into their school day. Post its notes placed around the house, in the school bag or in the car are a few strategies. For younger children there are many books about positive thinking. For teens and preteens it is easy to find youtube videos that focus on a positive mindset. The goal is to nurture your child’s positive thinking.
Affirmations take time and practice to be truly effective. They are not a quick fix to negative thinking and in the beginning your brain still wants to focus on the negative thoughts. Changing your thinking is an exercise for the brain and we need to work it regularly to see change.
You got this!