I just read an article about how stories can change how a child thinks. This process is called narrative psychology and most of the current research is focused on adult outcomes, the results are still compelling for children. If stories can change your child’s thoughts, memories and how they live their lives, wouldn’t it be great if we could help them change their negative stories into stories that are positive and healing.
Repetition is important
It does take time and many repetitions for children to retrain their brains into new and positive channels. Negative thinking is like a wheelbarrow that has made ruts in the ground. The more you push it over the same track the deeper the ruts get. Just as it’s easier to push a wheelbarrow in the same deep grooves, children’s brains finds it easier to replay old negative thoughts.
Our job is to help children get their thinking into new and healthy patterns. They need to know they can change their story. Many children we see think the trauma they and their families have been going through is somehow their fault, we need to help them realize it isn’t that way.
5 Ways to Help
The article suggested 5 Ways to Help Children Change Their Stories and Manage Anxiety
- Validate – Calmly validate children’s fears…never dismissing them. When children’s fears aren’t validated it can lead to increased anxiety.
- Educate – Let children know they have the power to change the story. That fact has probably never occurred to them. Some therapists use the analogy of a light switch – learning to switch how they are thinking in their brain.
- Contemplate – Find the root cause of the fear, once you find the root cause of the fear, the issues can be put into perspective. Sometimes you know the fear, sometimes the child will eagerly share the fear, and other times it might take a bit of detective work.
- Restate – Once you know the story, discuss ways to re-tell and re-write the story. If your child doesn’t write, have them dictate it to you. Add affirmations, wherever you can, to replace worried what-ifs with positive words.
- Create – Little ones might like to draw their story, create it out of Play-Doh or act it out with stuffed animals. Other artistic outlets for storytelling include making a storyboard or collage (from online photos or magazines), turning their story into a song or poem, or putting on a skit or puppet show. The more opportunities the child has to explore and rehearse the positive story, the more likely the positive script will replay in their minds when facing their fears.
The Center and its work
Helping a child overcome trauma and the negative patterns of thinking it brings is not easy, but it is important. At FCCC we strive to empower parents to be the change agents in their child’s life and this is a great skill for parents to learn. To read more about how the Center works with children click on the link and thanks for reading our blog today.