What do negative thoughts look like in children?
I remember my daughter coming home one day and saying something like
“Oh Mum! I am SO RUBBISH! I can’t do anything right – everything I do goes wrong, and I hate myself!”
I’m sure all you mum’s and dad’s out there have heard your youngsters state things like that before haven’t you!
Children are their own worst critics, especially a child who is already a little anxious or may struggle with negative thoughts all the time. I also remember when she was around 12 or 13 and a few kids got invited by one of the parents to a Pizza place for lunch (maybe a birthday but I can’t remember as it was years ago!) and my daughter totally convinced herself that everyone that WAS there – all hated her! And, if she did something wrong at school, like spell something wrong or something equally as miniscule – she would have a complete meltdown!
But these negative thought patterns are nearly always totally unrealistic, but they do have a huge impact on children’s emotions and behaviours, making it really difficult for parents to cope with.
Of course, we ALL do this sometimes – we catastrophise at times, but when it’s happening to your child frequently, it does need to be checked otherwise it can lead to really difficult problems for them later on in life.
These are the different types of thinking patterns that you should watch out for with your child.
Overgeneralising: This means that your child will perhaps think that because one particular child doesn’t want to play with him at break time, probably all the others won’t want to either. Or, I didn’t do well in my maths test today so that must mean that I’m rubbish at maths.
Mind Reading: This is just as it says – thinking that you can read someone’s mind! For example; a child is talking to him and he is a bit distracted because he can see the teacher watching them. Child A thinks the boy/girl is not interested in him/her!
Personalisation; This is about the child making things about “himself” – for example if their parents are considering separating or divorcing the child may think he’s done something to make that happen when actually it has nothing to do with him/her.
Labelling: This is when a child labels himself in a detrimental way – “I’m stupid, I let that ball go in the net”
Catastrophising: this is self- explanatory. The child makes a catastrophe out of everything – they blow a small problem up out of all control. They make a mountain out of a molehill! For example; “Going back to school is going to be absolutely awful!”
So, how can mum’s and dad’s help their children overcome this form of negativity?
One of the best ways to begin to help your child is to recognise your own negative thoughts first. You may say things like “Oh My God I’m such a rubbish parent!” or something similar, and whilst you are saying things like that you cant expect your child to be positive so really try and curb any negative remarks in front of your child.
The main aim is to be a good role model for your children. I cant tell you how many times I’ve heard parents be so negative in front of their children in my clinic and it makes me so sad as I can see the look on the child’s face and how sad THEY look!
A child who is seriously struggling with negativity and low self esteem may simply need a few sessions with a health professional, just to get them back on track so that the negative thoughts don’t get out of hand.
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