• Raffi Bandarian

Building Positive Thinking with Kids

Stress is up in America. According to the American Psychological Association (A.P.A.), the overall stress levels among Americans increased significantly in 2017 with more adults reporting extreme levels of stress. While the world is becoming more and more stressful, are we equipping our children with the tools they need to manage unpleasant experiences?

Children are amazingly resilient. They can bounce back naturally from all sorts of setbacks. A child's young brain is optimized to make connections between feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that can serve them through a lifetime of stressful events. So, it makes sense to help kids learn how to manage stressful situations early on. Stress that is not managed can be harmful to children and hamper wiring in parts of the brain that help regulate emotion, control thoughts, and manage behaviors. Parents can be mindful to ensure that their child develops strategies in the face of challenges. So, how can parents boost their child's resilience to stress in an every-changing world?

One way is to use technology to enhance coping skills. One app that does so in a playful, engaging way is Positive Penguins. Created as a resilience-building app for all children, Positive Penguins helps kids let go of unhelpful thoughts and replace them with more helpful ones. By developing this skill set at a young age, children can develop the tools they need to deal with stress.

Kids trained to identify feelings and the resulting thoughts can better handle problems that come up. Positive Penguins helps kids challenge thoughts, which can lead to better outcomes.

The premise is simple, yet effective. First, players pick and dress their penguin, then they determine how they are feeling out of 12 universal emotions like angry, sad, nervous, and excited. If a child selects a positive emotion, the app prompts the player to return and choose another one that is more geared towards addressing stress.

Once they identify an emotion, your child describes an event that resulted in the feeling followed by the thoughts associated with the feeling. The app offers an assortment of possible thoughts to facilitate the steps.

A series of four penguins help players learn key strategies to manage stress. They gently guide the child to change negative thoughts into more productive ones.

The first positive penguin named Evi tries to sort out the facts that do not support the thought. She helps kids begin to challenge their thoughts. The second penguin, Ollie, helps kids see the big picture by pointing out other things that might be going on to cause the feelings. The third penguin, Happ, helps kids be prepared for all sorts of outcomes. Happ provides a key lesson that being prepared is a useful solution to an assortment of situations. Finally, Buddy helps your child learn about empathy by teaching kids to share their helpful thoughts with others who may be having similar feelings. It lets kids know that others around them also struggle with managing their responses to feelings.

A helpful guided meditation helps kids (and even adults) learn to practice calming strategies.

Since parental involvement is required for young kids, Positive Penguins is also a great tool to build family bonding. Older kids going through a rough patch in their development will benefit too. It provides an accessible outlet for kids to openly talk about feelings and thoughts with their parents.

The app can even e-mail you the prompts and responses for easy reference.

A quick game of throwing snowballs at fish can serve to reinforce the practice of Positive Penguins.

Events at school and home can lead to all sorts of stress for kids, but if kids know how to change their thoughts, and practice doing so, they build resiliency. Positive Penguins does all of this and more with play as the central theme. Kids learn to change thoughts to change their feelings.

Maya Angelou's quote, "The world is changed one child at a time," beautifully exemplifies the role that cultivating a child’s resilience has on the rest of the world. With supportive and available parents, every child can learn to manage stress, and thus change the world for the better.

#AmericanPsychologicalAssociation #childhoodstress #PositivePenguins #appsforkids #emotionregulationinchildren #MayaAngelou




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