Thursday, September 29, 2016

Imagine Yourself Into a Better Day

How will you envision your day?
Hello again, Moonlighters!  We're now in full swing of the back-to-school season.  Hopefully, the transition back has been smooth for you.  Things are exciting here in the MM household with a 2nd grader and a new kindergartener.

Tonight's activity came about during the ride to school on the morning of our second day of kindergarten. Although our DS seemed to really like his new school, he kept repeating that he didn't want to go back.  I knew it was probably just some nervousness about the new experiences, but I wanted to do some active listening to make sure he felt like he was being heard and to avoid putting my own bias into what he was feeling.  But while the active listening technique is usually very helpful, it didn't seem to help him shake his nervousness that morning.  He sounded really upset and he kept saying that he didn't want to go.

So while sitting in traffic (feeling quite on edge myself) I decided to improvise.
Me: Hey Buddy, I have an idea.  I have noticed that the way I think about something can change how I feel when it happens.  Like if I think a food will be yucky, oftentimes it tastes yucky.  Or if I think an activity won't be fun, then it might not be.  Some people call that "negative thinking."  But if I think I might enjoy something, it can make me feel really good and I do enjoy it.  Even if a few bad things happen, I might feel really good about how the whole day is going.  Some people call that "positive thinking."  So how we think can change how we feel.  Would you like to try a "positive thinking" game with me?

DS: Okay.

Me: Great.  First let's each take a few minutes and imagine each other having a great day. I'll imagine you at school having a great day and you imagine me at work having a great day.

<60 second quiet pause>

Me: Okay.  Now, can you tell me about my day?  What was it like?

DS: You see your friend, Tom, and go for a walk at lunch, and fix some people's computers.

Me: Yes, that sounds like a great day!  Now, I'll tell you about your day.  First, you get to school and have your yummy snack.  You do some art projects and read some good books.  You see your new friend and play blocks with him. Then you go for a hike with your class and play in the stream.  You play in the sandbox and then you go home.  Does that sound good?

DS: Yeah!

Me: Okay, now let's switch.  You imagine your own day and I'll imagine mine and then we'll share it.

<Long pause>

Me: I'll go first this time.  I start off with a nice bowl of cereal while I check my email.  Then I talk over a hard problem with Tom.  I get to fix some people's computer problems which really makes their day.  My boss is really happy with my work.  I get to take a walk and the weather feels great.  Your turn now.

DS: I build a castle with blocks and find some crayfish in the stream.  Then we play in the outdoor kitchen.

Me: Wow, now that does sound like a great day!

<Short pause>

DS: Can we do this every day?

Me: We sure can.  Why?  Do you feel better about going to school?

DS: Yeah, much better!

Reframe your tomorrow tonight

For tonight's activity, try this kind of thought experiment with your child.  Is there any part of the day that makes them nervous or that they feel negatively about?  How can we reframe how we think about our days to make us feel better about them?

There's a great article about how the Danish people are great at reframing their lives to see things in a positive light.  From the article:
If you ask a Dane about the weather when it is freezing, gray, and raining outside, they will unwittingly answer: ‘There is no bad weather, only bad clothing’ or ‘I am glad we can get cozy inside at home tonight.’ If you say, ‘Too bad it’s the last day of our vacation,’ they might reply, ‘Yes, but it is the first day of the rest of our lives.’ If you try to get them to focus on something really negative about any topic, you may be mystified at the way they can reinterpret it. Danes are what psychologists call ‘realistic optimists.’ They don’t negate negative information like overly optimistic people with rose-colored glasses. They tend to be brutally realistic about life, but they are also incredibly gifted at finding angles of reality that aren’t so dark, upsetting, or negative.

It's important when reframing not to negate the negative because you want to make sure your child feels heard (a critical piece of active listening).  Instead of telling them how to feel, try to focus on other details to help lead the child to seeing the situation more positively.

This is an important contrast with our Your Best Day Ever activity, which was just for fun and imagination.  Instead, in tonight's activity, we focus on reality but try to visualize it with a positive mindset.

I also wrote a little rhyme to help you remember the activity the next time your child needs a little help with a transition.
I'll imagine your great day
Then you'll imagine mine.
Next we'll imagine our own great days
To help us to feel fine.
We hope you find this post useful.  Please share with your friends and leave a comment about your experiences.  Also, you can always find us on Twitter or Facebook!

Have a great night and...mind the nap!

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