Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Teaching our Children to Think Positively

I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day! My weekend getaway went extremely well. I think that all the preparing that I did really helped because my anxiety wasn't an issue at all while I was away. I was able to get up and eat meals and socialize just fine. Until surprisingly the long drive home. I was thinking about how well I did and was feeling proud of myself when the thought entered my mind,
"What if I get home and the anxiety returns?"
and wouldn't you know it, instant panic set in. My arms were burning, my stomach churning. I kept telling myself that I was ok and that everything would be fine, but I couldn't get the symptoms to go away or calm myself down. Eventually I ended up taking a little clonazepam to take the edge off and that helped.

Its so touch and go that it can be frustrating at times. A scenario that will most of the time be really difficult will be absolutely fine and then another scenario where I am usually fine will all of a sudden be really difficult.

Mornings are still an issue right now. I still wake up with anxiety, not every day but sometimes, and so I have been taking the mornings easy. I have been nervous about eating breakfasts since my stomach is all yucky from the anxiety. So I have been munching on saltines the last few days for breakfast so that I am at least eating something. I have been doing yoga every other day and the more I do it the more my body craves it. It really helps to shake off any lingering anxiety in the morning and to feel good about the day.

To help me not get overwhelmed with everything on my plate, my mantra has been "Do What You Can, When You Can." Whenever I start to worry about something not getting done I say that to myself a couple of times. It helps me to remember that I am doing the best I can and if I don't get to something today thats ok, I can get to it later.

I've been thinking about how much my anxiety revolves around the negative thoughts in my head and it makes me wonder how long I have been doing that for and if it was something I picked up from those around me growing up or if its just how I am. It makes me think about when raising my kids how I want them to be happy, confident, and positive in their thinking so they don't have these same problems. How do I teach that and not let them feed off my poor example? I know I can praise them a lot to raise their self esteem, but how do I teach them to not think badly of themselves or to care what others think? I found a really great article on the subject here:

"The power of our thoughts has been recognized for centuries. For better or worse, out thoughts determine who we become and what we manifest during our earthly stay. Helping our children to understand this truth adds awareness and intention to the power they already possess as thinking beings.

How can you help your child grow up knowing the power of thought, and especially the power of positive thought? Some ideas follow:

  • Keep your thoughts and words gentle, be deliberately positive.
  • Speak kindly of all family members and friends.
  • Approach your work with enthusiasm. Curtail complaining in favor of problem-solving.
  • Speak the language of hope and affirmation. Say “I will” and “I can” often!
  • Smile a lot! Laugh at yourself and allow others to laugh with you.
  • Inspire positive regard for people who may be different in one way or another. Find value in everyone you meet.
  • Let your child know how wonderful they are. Often!
  • Frame correction in positive terms. “Chairs are for sitting” rather than “Don’t stand up in that chair.”
  • Use courtesy in your interchange with others. Be an example of respect and sincerity.


Babies come into the world with no worry, doubt or lack of self-esteem. Preserving the “clean slate” is impossible, as babies are about the business of perceiving, making connections and deriving meaning from the events and relationships around them.

Handling babies and young children gently, helping them feel secure in your care is a good starting place. Singing and speaking in soft positive tones soothes even the most ruffled baby. Letting them know they are valued will be the foundation for positive self-esteem.

As your child grows, have faith in their ability to learn and perform challenging things. “You can do it!” goes a long way. There is no need to push. Encourage while respecting developmental readiness.

Preschoolers need to be prepared to deal with many kinds of children when they go to school. Play experiences will hopefully include playtime with kids of diverse backgrounds, abilities, and ethnicities.

Main points to address:

  • Babies learn to be positive or negative from the big people they grow up with.
  • Being handled with respect and gentleness will set the foundation for positive self-image.
  • Have confidence in your toddler’s ability to do challenging things.
  • Help your preschooler appreciate diversity.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age children can experience “culture shock” upon entering school. They may encounter children who may have been abused, who handle things and people roughly and who have not been respected or cared for. They will need help understanding why some people are “nice” and others seem “mean”. Encourage them to stay positive and view others with compassion.

In the meantime, live positive! Have a gratitude break once or twice a week. Let each family member tell what they are grateful for at the dinner table. Practice finding the “silver lining” when things don’t go well. Don’t deny how awful an event might have been. Just help them find a different perspective to view things from.

Encourage positive self-talk by referring to yourself and others in positive ways. Teach your child to use positive affirmations to bolster confidence. Perhaps before an important game they could repeat for several minutes: “I am strong and fast. I am ready for this game.” Or after feeling left out on the playground, “I am loved. I have lots of good friends.”

Main points to address:

  • Encourage your child to stay positive and compassionate even when others are not.
  • Let them know they always have a choice how they use their power and the energy of their thoughts.

Grades 4-6th

Older school age kids are learning what they are good at and what they are not as good at. This can be a time when children compare themselves with others. Helping your child to view themselves as unique and special will curb their tendency to put themselves down.

Listen to their self-doubts and fears without minimizing the issues. Then help your child look at things from a different angle. Using empathy will help your child be compassionate with themselves.

Reminding your child that he or she is not “done yet” will set them free to see their development as a process that sometimes feels like three steps forward and one step back. This will help them bounce back from disappointments more easily. Praise them for not giving up.

Children can tend to become perfectionist at this stage. Appreciating where your child is in their development will help them accept themselves and view their life experience positively. Convey the truth that everyone makes mistakes and misjudgments while they are learning. Tell them learning never really ends by showing them ways you are still learning.

You can begin to make the connection between positive thoughts, positive words and positive outcomes. It will be empowering for your child to learn that they are in control of their thought-life and that a positive lifestyle is a choice they can embrace. Your 9-12 year old is ready to understand that: “As a man (or woman or child!) thinketh, so is he (or she).”

Main points to address:

  • Encourage your child to see themselves as a unique individual with talents, skills and personal power.
  • Use empathy when listening to their fears and doubts.
  • Help your child view life as a process- better yet- an adventure!
  • Make the connection between positive thought, positive words, positive actions and positive outcome. Thoughts are powerful!

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

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Fresh Squeezed Lemons said...

I suffer from anxiety disorder and agoraphobia, as well. Mornings are also particularly bad for me. I'm still at the point where having a bad morning ruins my whole day. I am seeing a therapist and doing exposure therapy. I just started but I am totally terrified! i was wondering if you have an experience with this? Also, I read that you took clonazepam to take the edge off. I have been considering this and am wondering if you experience any side effects from this. Yet another one of my fears...medication and its side effects.

Anonymous said...

I have the same kinds of symptoms and I have found in the past that half a xanax does a lot to take the edge off of the anxiety.

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