Ignoring bad thoughts

Belle has “bad thoughts” that creep up on her. Sadness about a service dog not working out, sadness about a favorite show getting canceled, fears about school, frustration about someone being “mean” to her, can all sneak in when she’s tired, hungry, or just in a bad mood. I’ll engage with her about these things for a very short time if she’s being appropriate and calm, but if she starts obsessing, not listening to reason, perseverating, or escalating I tell her I’m done and that she needs to stop talking about that subject. If she continues she is sent to her room. We also do a lot of work on “ignoring bad thoughts” by:

  • helping her to identify what a bad thought is- her brain tricking her into getting upset about something
  • helping her to understand that she is in charge of her brain- she can tell her brain to back off and leave her alone
  • giving her points for specifically “ignoring bad thoughts” and point out when she mentions a “worry” and then moves on to a new subject. We talk about her use of that skill when we review her points each night
  • using the same “term” when we are referring to the problem- “it sounds like you’re having a lot of bad thoughts right now” or “you did a great job ignoring those bad thoughts today”. This triggers a reminder for her that she is getting points for “ignoring bad thoughts” without me telling her what to do when she’s upset
  • I give Belle lots of attention at the appropriate times for “good” topics like the new season of lost tapes coming out and her Halloween costume etc so she is reinforced for “having good thoughts” and not “worrying”

Belle has shown a great deal of ability to let things go and move on.

Book I would recommend- The anxiety cure for kids by Spencer and DuPont

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