By Anne Andrew
How can you help your teen or preteen recover from a devastating disappointment? Learn the simple question that can turn things around: “Is there another way of seeing this?”
When your child comes home from school and retreats to their room with a slam of the door, you may well suspect that:
The math test didn’t go well
They didn’t make the team,
Their best friend ditched them for someone else
or countless other possibilities.
Whatever happened, you know that for your child it feels as if the end of the world just arrived. This post will give you the tools you need to help your child recover quickly by reinterpreting the event in a positive light.
Our children (and we) see everything through the lens of the negative beliefs they have about themselves. In fact, those beliefs choose their thoughts and feelings for them – they are the default thought pathways that they replay over and over. So, when your daughter fails to make the soccer team, her thoughts immediately jump to validation of her negative beliefs and those thoughts are always painful. For example:
How, then, can we help our children to reinterpret their disappointments?
First things first:
Before you can begin to help your child in any situation, it is imperative for you to check in with your own feelings. Do you feel disappointed for your child, or upset that your child is upset? You must clear your own feelings first so that you can approach your child with a calm, neutral affect. Using the Choose Again Six Steps to Freedom is a helpful tool in this regard.
Help your child to choose a different interpretation of the event.
The three things they need to know to feel better are:
There’s a question that can help them to reframe whatever disaster has befallen them - “Is there another way of seeing this?” Very likely the answer will be “No!”, but just asking the question can open the door to curiosity and a more palatable understanding.
There are numerous ways of interpreting any event
Any circumstance will automatically be evaluated according to our beliefs about ourselves. These result in fearful and negative interpretations such as:
We can override the automatic, ‘go to’ thoughts that are chosen by our negative beliefs and choose thoughts that feel a whole lot better. The choice is ours.
So, when your daughter recovers enough to come out of her room, you can gently ask her what she perceives the problem to be, ask “Is there another way of seeing this?” and offer some help in brainstorming a happier way of interpreting it. The biggest thing she needs to know to feel better is that she is in control of her thoughts, her thoughts don’t have to control her feelings.
How can you raise your child to be aware of their power to choose their thoughts?
Here are three ways:
By asking the question, “Is there another way of seeing this?”, we help our kids to know that there are numerous ways of interpreting an event. The default way that led to feelings of disappointment was chosen by a negative belief and that belief is not true. We have the power to choose a different way to see an otherwise neutral event—one that feels better.
Next time your son or daughter comes home with a gloomy face. After establishing what seems to be the problem, use those seven words “Is there another way of seeing this?” Then set about brainstorming with them to find a more palatable option.
Please let me know in the comments if you found this article helpful.
A Few Helpful Resources:
It’s my thoughts that cause me pain
Events are Neutral
Self-Esteem and your worth
The behavior cycle – How our beliefs drive our thoughts feelings and behaviors.
I know firsthand the emotional and financial costs of having a troubled teenager and I don’t want that to happen to you. That's why I wrote my book What They Don't Teach in Prenatal Class: The Key to Raising Trouble-Free Kids and Teens (available on Amazon).