We spend a lot of time throughout the day listening to the thoughts of others. People share their thoughts with us almost constantly. However, we spend the greatest amount of our time listening to our thoughts. Therefore, the way we talk to ourselves is important and, understandably, the way we teach our children to talk to themselves is important as well.

The conversations you have with yourself throughout the day are impactful–the quality of these conversations very much influence the way you tend to think of yourself as a whole. Self-talk is something you are doing almost constantly, and it can be either encouraging or distressing. Positive self-talk is affirming and works to further develop your teen’s self-image in a constructive way. It promotes increased self-confidence, better physical well-being, and overall life-satisfaction. Negative self-talk, on the other hand, tears people down and can negatively impact your teen’s self-image as well as contribute to both mental and physical conditions.

The good news is, positive self-talk can be learned, and you can help your teen learn it! First, it is important for your teen to identify what they’re self-talk patterns are: is their self talk more often than not positive or do they have more negative self-talk patterns? One way you can work with your teen to figure this out is to help them pay attention to their emotions. When they note feeling “down” (i.e., sad, anxious, upset, depressed, etc.), ask them to pay particular attention to what the voice in their head (the same one you hear as you’re reading this, in fact) says. For example, if they tell you they got upset when they got a lower than expected grade back on a test and you ask, “What did you tell yourself when you felt upset?” they may tell you they had thoughts like: “I messed up,” or “I studied so hard and it was for nothing,” or “I’m just dumb…”

Once your teen is aware of their negative self-talk patterns you can then work with them to create some opportunities to implement and practice positive self-talk! Remember: No one is perfect, so you teen will still experience negative self-talk and that is okay! The idea is to practice positive self-talk habits so it becomes easier for your teen to replace their negative self-talk with positive self-talk. (This is something therapists have good training in, so if this is something you believe would benefit your teen then I definitely encourage you to reach out to us!)

If you would like to practice some positive self-talk habits with your teen, please see the list below and comment if there are any you have tried not on the list that have seemed to work well for you and your family!

1) Recognizing Strengths — Helping your teen recognize their strengths can be useful in developing positive self-talk patterns. There are endless ways to do this, but my favorite activity is simple! Sit down with your teen and a pack of post-its. Invite them to write one strength (this can also include something they like about themself or something they’re good at) on each post it note. You can help them with this and share some of your favorite things about your teen a well! Then, let them post the notes somewhere where they will see them daily (their bathroom mirror works well)!

2) Reality Check — If your teen says something like, “I am going to fail my driver’s test because I am a bad driver,” ask them to pause. Have them identify the absolute worst-case scenario (i.e., they fail their exam) and then the best-case scenario (i.e., they ace their exam and get their license). Once they have identified their worst-case/best-case scenario, ask them to identify a realistic middle ground. For example, using the example above, your teen may say something like, “Well, I might not ace the test but I bet I will pass because I’ve been practicing.”

3) Statements -> Questions — When your teen verbalizes a negative thought about them ask them to say it again but in question format. For example: “I’m not going to make the team because I don’t have enough experience”  “I’m not going to make the team because I don’t have enough experience?” Invite them to answer their own question. Can they be absolutely certain the answer is yes? Have them give evidence to the contrary! This helps them practice challenging their negative self-talk patterns.

Self-talk, again, is something everyone does–so, as your teen practices these healthy positive self-talk habits feel free to do some of the activities for yourself and model healthy self-communication habits.
To read more on self-talk feel free to visit the following link: https://psychcentral.com/lib/challenging-negative-self-talk/

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