New Year, New Mindset for Children’s Mental Health
It is almost holiday break for our children this year! A time for rest and recuperation from the daily grind of homework, tests, and other school activities. Some children embrace the break and are ready to return to school with bright eyes and a positive attitude. Other children dread having to return due to many reasons- poor grades in the first semester, bad classroom experiences, bullying… to name just a few. As the countdown to school starts back, so can the anxiety:
“What if I get bad teachers?”
“What if none of my friends are in my class?”
“What if I fail?”
Catastrophic thinking, or as some therapists fondly refer to as “stinking thinking”, can affect mood and behavior. In this article, we will dive deeper into catastrophic thinking, as well as strategies for parents to help children recognize anxiety and embrace change going forward into a new year.
What is Catastrophic Thinking?
Catastrophic thinking is letting anxious thoughts build off of one another. Catastrophic thinking usually involves future events.
For example, if a child receives a D on a test, they may have the thought: “I’m going to be in so much trouble.” Sounds normal, right? But with catastrophic thinking, that “I’m going to be in so much trouble” turns into “I’m going to get kicked off the basketball team. My coach will hate me, and my parents will hate me, and I will disappoint everyone and never be allowed to play basketball again.”
Catastrophic thinking heightens an already uncomfortable situation. Being able to recognize when you’re “starting to spiral” is the first step in slowing down the stinking thinking train, per se.
How Can Parents Help Children to Embrace Change?
As parents, we want our children to be safe from all harm. Children go through changes very quickly and are constantly being put into new experiences to which they must adapt. Parents cannot always be there to help their children deal with new situations, particularly at school. Your child who once had no issue with math may suddenly become confused and doesn’t know how to ask for help, thus beginning to fail in class. Perhaps a friend group of many years has a falling out and your child is dealing with drama. Whatever the situation may be, it is easy to get into that negative mindset of “everything is horrible and nothing good can happen from this.” Suddenly change is scary rather than exciting.
Parents can foster a mindset of embracing change in their children by encouraging curiosity, resilience, and adaptability. Expose them to diverse experiences, support their exploration of new interests, and celebrate their efforts rather than just achievements. Encourage problem-solving and critical thinking, helping them understand that learning is a continuous process. Additionally, emphasize the value of failure as a learning opportunity and teach them to view challenges as stepping stones to growth.