When your child sees a classmate who continues talking to someone else, do they think, “she doesn’t like me”? Does your child tell himself or herself “I’m so invisible. No one notices me”? Do they usually react this way internally, instead of letting those thoughts go, and just thinking, “she’s busy now”? These thoughts that pop into your child’s head are called “automatic thoughts” and they can be self-defeating. While it is sometimes common to compare oneself to others, when these thoughts persist, and make your child feel bad about themselves, it could mean that they are struggling with anxiety and/or depression.
Helping children and teens understand the negatives of a “sticky mind” can be the beginning to their letting go of their ruminating thoughts that dwell on self-criticism. This “sticky mind” that latches onto harmful thoughts does not allow the child or teen to see that their thoughts are not necessarily true; they might be guesses that turn out to be wrong. Being able to look at our thoughts and evaluate them as helpful or unhelpful, 100% true or just a guess, is a great way to begin to lift ourselves out of a state of worry and sadness.
Your encouragement can help them retrain their brain. One fun way to illustrate the notion of the “sticky brain” is to do an art activity making oobleck, a tenacious concoction that likes to cling to everything! Reading the Dr Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck with younger children offers an introduction to sticky oobleck and how hard it is to get rid of it. Making it with kids of all ages is just plain fun, and this activity invites a conversation about sticky, yucky thoughts that hamper us and freeze us in place. Supporting our children and teens to notice their thoughts and evaluate their legitimacy in their minds can lead to better moods ahead!
As a counselor I use art activities, crafts, and books to connect with my younger clients and to help them understand some of the ideas we are broaching. Using our senses and language helps integrate our comprehension of new concepts. Children and teens are more able to remember concepts that they actually experience with their bodies, and that they derive enjoyment from illustrating. I am committed to providing counseling that is accessible for children and teens and will employ the expressive arts if that proves a valuable means of reaching each client individually.