Reframe Worries: Help Kids Change Their Thinking

Many of the students I have worked with in a group or individual setting who are dealing with worries share a similar belief. They think they need to “just be positive” to get rid of their worries. Well-meaning adults or friends in their lives have given them this advice in an attempt to help. But the truth is positivity isn’t the most effective way to deal with worries. It’s important that we help our students or kids learn to reframe worries with realistic and believable thoughts. Keep reading to see how you can help kids deal with worry by reframing worries with this strategy.

Reframe Worries in a Way That Sticks

Want to help kids deal with worry? Help them reframe worries in a way that sticks! Use this strategy in your individual or group counseling activities.

Worries, Feelings, Actions, Thoughts Chain Reaction

To teach this skill, I first want students to see how their worry thoughts start a chain reaction. Worry thoughts lead to emotions like worry, fear, nervousness, and more. Those emotions lead to actions like hiding, withdrawing, or skipping events. Those actions lead to more thoughts like, “No one likes me,” or “The world is too dangerous.”

Want to help kids deal with worry? Help them reframe worries in a way that sticks! Use this strategy in your individual or group counseling activities.

Once they can see how this chain reaction starts and cycles, we look at an alternative thought – something that challenges the worry. Here’s an example:

  • Worry thought: What if no one at the party talks to me?
  • Alternative thought: I can think of at least 1 thing to say to someone at the party.

In this situation, the worry thought places all of the control in others’ hands. But the alternative thought gives the thinker power to take control in the situation. As you can imagine, the chain reactions for these thoughts look really different.

  • Worry thought: What if no one at the party talks to me? Emotion: Scared, nervous Action: I stand alone in the corner or don’t go. Thought: I’m unlikeable.
  • Alternative thought: I can think of at least 1 thing to say to someone at the party. Emotion: Confident Action: I talk to one person about the big game last night. Thought: I can have conversations with others.

The Problem with Pure Positivity

There’s certainly nothing wrong with positivity – we teach positive thinking all the time! But when it comes to worries, it’s more important that reframed thoughts are believable and realistic than positive. If a student creates positive reframes that are general and un-actionable, chances are that these thoughts won’t have long-standing benefits for dismissing worry. Here are some examples:

  • Worry thought: I’ll probably mess up all my lines in my speech.
  • Purely positive reframe: Everything will be fine!
  • Believable and realistic reframe: I practiced my speech a lot. I might mess up a line or two, but most people won’t even know. I can keep going.
  • Worry thought: I’m going to strike out.
  • Purely positive reframe: I’m an amazing player! I won’t strike out!
  • Believable and realistic reframe: I might strike out, but I also might get a hit. I will do my best.

See the difference? The problem with telling students to “just be positive” is that it doesn’t really help them change their thinking. It’s like sweeping worries under the rug. Instead, by helping students reframe their worries with thoughts that are believable and realistic, they can acknowledge other possibilities and also harness any control they may have in the situation.

Reframe Worries

The key to helping kids reframe worries is to make sure those reframed thoughts are believable and realistic, not just positive!

How do you help kids reframe worries? What are some of your favorite activities to teach this skill? Let me know and check out more worry busting activities and resources below:


Need More Worry Activities? Try These Activities to Help Kids Deal With Worry:

Worry Warriors Group Counseling Program

Want to help kids deal with worry? Help them reframe worries in a way that sticks! Use this strategy in your individual or group counseling activities.

Worry Workbook for Kids

Worry Workbook for Kids: Help kids manage worries and reframe worries with these worry activities

Track Worries to Look for Patterns (Free Download)

Help kids who worry track their experiences and look for patterns to drive your counseling sessions and build worry battling calming skills! Worry trackers will help drive worry activities in your worry counseling sessions for school counseling or group counseling!
Help Kids Manage Worries: Kids struggling with worry? Help them reframe worries with this counseling strategy. This is perfect for worry group counseling session activities or individual counseling sessions on worry or anxiety. -Counselor Keri

5 thoughts on “Reframe Worries: Help Kids Change Their Thinking

  1. I teach a 10 session course on stress and worry to elementary kids. One of the lessons is on “red” thoughts and “green” thoughts. Red thoughts stop you from doing what you need and want to do, green thoughts help you do it. We play red light-green light to get them practising recognizing the different, and then play hot potato to get them to come up with their own. I have a red stress ball and a green one that get passed around and when they stop I give them a situation. Whoever is holding the red ball comes up with a red thought they might have in that situation, and the person with the green ball comes up with a green thought to reframe it. The kids enjoy the game and it seems to get the idea across!

  2. I needed to read this! I talked with a student just yesterday thanks could benefit from this. Our entire conversation was about making choices about thoughts. Thank you!

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