Remember, although many of our thoughts occur outside our control, they are just thoughts, sometimes without any real basis, and are not necessarily facts. Even although we may believe a lot of our unhelpful thoughts when we are feeling stressed, it is good to remember that they should be questioned as they are often based on wrong assumptions. First you need to recognise an unhelpful thought, then you need to challenge it.
The following questions will help your child to challenge their negative thoughts and to try and make their thoughts more balanced:
- Is this thought helpful to me?
- What is the evidence for and against this thought?
- What kind of ‘thinking error’ could it be?
- What would you say to a friend in the same situation if they were thinking this?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of thinking in this way?
- Is there another way of looking at the situation?
- How important is this thought? How will you feel about this in 6 weeks?
- What thought could I replace this with that would be more helpful?
The ‘helpful’ thoughts are more realistic and will make challenges easier to handle. Being able to change their unhelpful thoughts can therefore be a good coping strategy and stop young people feeling as anxious.