thought or situation that needs to be addressed. With young children, frame this approach as doing detective work to locate the source of the problem; with older children, explain that it’s usually a triggering event that makes us feel really bad—the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s key to helping them know what to do to feel better.

Step Four: Optimize

and Rewire When a child is thinking negatively, their thoughts stall, their strengths and resources lock up, and their energy, motivation and hopefulness are drained. Try diff erent set- tings or perspectives on the specifi c prob- lem the child has identifi ed and choose the version or interpretation that works best for them, one that is the least damaging, most accurate and gets their system moving in a new direction.

the Change When we can’t think our way out of a mood, we can move ourselves out of it. Like picking up the needle on a skipping record and putting it down elsewhere, doing something active helps the brain engage in something enjoyable until our nervous sys-

Step Five: Mobilize to Be

tem recovers. T oughts, like a windup toy with its wheels against a wall, can keep spinning fruitlessly in place until manually turned in a new direction. Redirecting dif-

fers from distracting

ourself from negative thoughts. Distractions play hide-and-seek with negativity; eventu- ally, it will fi nd us again. T e master plan in caring for a child calls for us to fi rst dis- mantle the power of whatever perspective is

bullying them, correctly value ideas and then focus on what matters most. Whether we’re accepting or dismissing thoughts that suggest themselves, either way, we’re the boss because thoughts have only the power we give them and we are equipped to let them fl oat on by or to amend, correct or replace them.

Psychologist Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., is

the founder and director of the Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety, in Plymouth Meeting, PA. Her many books include Freeing Your Child from Negative T inking. For more information, visit

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