An April Message from the OCDSB Mental Health Team: Positivity

Positive self talk and positive thinking are powerful tools for both parents and children. Research has shown that words of encouragement from ourselves or from others can affect how capable we feel when encountering new situations or tasks we find stressful. Below are a few tips on how you can use positivity as a mindset for both yourself and for your child(ren), especially when you encounter challenging situations.

Understanding Negative Thinking 

Sometimes our brains imagine the ‘worst’ case scenario happening. This is one way our minds assess and understand the possible dangers and risks of the situations we face. The aim of this reflexive response is to keep us safe and guide our decision-making. It is important to understand that some degree of this thinking is normal for both children and adults and is, in fact, an important part of our survival. While negative thinking can allow us to prepare, our thinking patterns affect our moods and can also leave us feeling stuck and helpless. If you notice yourself or your child(ren) often thinking negatively, it may be helpful to identify this tendency, reflect and challenge yourself to practice more positive or helpful thinking in a way that works for you and your family. 

Authentic Positivity

Sometimes the goal of positivity is misunderstood as an attempt to meet all situations with a happy mood or that we should never experience uncomfortable or “negative” emotions. In fact, all emotions and experiences are valid and should be acknowledged. Positivity can be a helpful tool that can support us to process and accept any emotion we are experiencing. To practice positivity authentically with your child(ren), do your best to ensure their feelings are validated and acknowledged. This is not about dismissing other emotions but accepting all the emotions that may come our way. In the face of a big emotion, consider whether it is useful to find a positive or hopeful outcome in that moment or simply allow yourself (or your child/ren) some time to acknowledge the struggle you/they are having without getting stuck in it.

Positive Self Talk  

Positive self talk is consciously encouraging ourselves and our child(ren) through positive thoughts and words and can be an important stress management tool. This is about finding ways to be more kind to ourselves rather than critical. For some people positive self talk may come more naturally than others. Saying kind and encouraging words to yourself and your child(ren) is a great way to practice positive thinking, and can help children develop a sense of confidence and perseverance when facing challenges. 

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are a great way to practice positive self talk and help instill a sense of confidence in yourself and your child(ren). A positive affirmation is a phrase or sentence you can tell yourself to offer encouragement and positivity in a way that makes sense to you. Some examples are: “I believe in myself” “I am strong” “I will try my best” “I can do this!”. School Mental Health Ontario suggests the ‘4 finger affirmation’, where together you and your child(ren) can develop an affirmation for each finger on the hand. When feeling stressed, uncertain, or discouraged, recite these affirmations to feel a boost of confidence and positivity. 

Modeling Positivity 

Children look to their parents and caregivers to understand the situations around them, especially difficult situations. In order to help your child(ren) think positively in the face of stress, do your best to model a calm and hopeful attitude when encountering a problem of your own. Offer a listening ear to your child(ren) whenever they encounter a problem or express a big emotion.  Try to understand their perspective and validate the feelings they share with you  while offering encouragement. 

Shifting our thinking can take time and practice. This is not about pretending that life is always filled with sunshine and roses. Instead it is about being more intentional about focusing on some of the positives around you no matter how small they may feel. It is also about finding more balanced and realistic ways of seeing the world. Through humour, compassion, and curiosity, we can model for our children ways to celebrate mistakes, embrace challenges, and find moments of hope and beauty in the world around us.  


Four Finger Affirmation - SMHO

Positive Self Talk - SMHO

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