Positive thinking is an attitude that perceives situations in a constructive manner. This does not imply that the negativity is ignored. Instead, an individual with a positive mindset acknowledges situations and approaches them in a productive manner.

A person can most effectively use positive thinking when they encounter neutral life events, such as starting a new job, meeting a new teacher, or starting school. During these more ambiguous encounters, it is our perspective that matters most.

Can children grasp the concept of positive thinking?

Yes. During middle childhood, cognitive changes contribute to positive thinking. Early on, children are taught how emotions work in simple, binary terms, such as, “If I go to a birthday party, I’m going to be happy.” Or ”If I’m going to get an injection, I’m going to be sad.”

These guidelines become more complex after the age of five and continue throughout middle childhood. There is now information about how the mind relates to emotion in the instructions. Consequently, children begin to understand that the thoughts they have can affect how they feel.

5-year-olds can connect thought with emotion

A study conducted by Dr Christi Bamford, a developmental psychologist and assistant professor at Jacksonville University, involved 90 children aged five to ten. According to the study, children as young as five are able to comprehend the benefits of positive thinking: A positive thought feels good, and a negative thought feels bad. Furthermore, children are better at understanding the power of positive thinking in ambiguous situations.

Children get better at positive thinking as they age

Positive thinking is even more effective in children who are a few years older. It has been shown in numerous studies that 7 and 8-year-olds use distractions to cope with anxiety. When asked how they cope with the fear of receiving an injection, they suggest thinking of a happy time, such as eating ice cream. Alternatively, younger kids tend to suggest more tangible distractions, such as playing with a toy.

A positive thinking activity

  1. Each day for the week, take 10-15 minutes to write down three things that went well and why. This could be something as simple as ‘My son gave me a nice smile this morning’. Or it might be a major event – for example, ‘I organised my daughter’s birthday party’.
  2. Underneath each thing that went well, write what you did to make it happen. For example, if you put ‘My son gave me a nice smile today’, you could write, ‘I smiled, and he smiled back’.
  3. Try to give it a go for a week. It might feel odd to do this at first, but it gets easier with practice.

You might need to help younger children come up with ideas for this activity. For example, your younger child might have built a Lego creation that they really like. Younger children might also find it easier to draw pictures of the positive things they’re focusing on, like a picture of a Lego block.

Older children and teenagers can try doing this exercise by themselves. But they might be going through more ups and downs than they used to, so there might be days when they find it harder to think positively. Some gentle encouragement from you can help. For example, you might need to remind your child that they finished a tricky assignment or helped out with some extra family chores.

Related: Age appropriate chores

People who do this positive thinking exercise say they feel happier, less worried and less sad. When you focus on the positives and keep the negatives in perspective, it’s good for your happiness and well-being. Positive thinking can help you and your child notice and appreciate the good things in your lives.

Related: Why negative emotions aren’t all bad