One of my favorite quotes is by Lou Holtz: “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
Although we cannot control how cars around us will drive, the spouse our child may choose one day, etc, we CAN choose how we react to the situations. We can choose to think differently about what happens to us and around us in our daily life. We can choose to look at the glass half full, to be present in each moment without having a mind cluttered with angry, depressing, and upsetting thoughts.
This idea can be brought down to the young child’s level of thinking as well. One of my favorite ways to address this concept with my younger clients (even as young as four) is the channel changer activity. Talk to the child about imagining. Ask about what makes him/her feel happy and have him/her imagine this with closed eyes. This can be used to show a child that what we think or imagine can affect how we feel. Then explain that we can also CHOOSE what we think about or do not think about. I usually illustrate this by talking about how the brain is like a TV with different channels or thoughts that can make us feel different ways. Have the child think of positive things they may like on their happy and or safe channel (Christmas tree channel, cat channel, superhero channel, etc). If the child has a trauma history, using the terminology of a “safe” channel is particularly important.
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This worksheet can then be used to explore what the child’s distressing channel (thought) is composed of and he or she can draw the distressing channel as well as identify how this thought makes him or her feel. Then have the child draw the happy and or safe channel and identify how this makes the child feel. I often use puppets or figurines to act out through play with the child how to “change the channel” in their mind thus changing the feeling. Puppets or therapy stuffed animals with changing emotion faces work particularly well for this. I have even made “remote controls” with children out of craft supplies and cardboard to be brought as a tangible reminder to change to a more helpful channel/thought.
Positive thinking everyone!!