“I had a horrible day!” Ugh. Not those words again. My first grade daughter has been having the kind of days that made that one kid in that book want to move to Australia. Kids are bound to have bad days and goodness knows so are adults but this “horrible day” statement was happening more often than not. If this sounds familiar to you and you aren’t sure what to do, read on.
First things first, it’s important to always validate what your child is feeling. Empathic responses such as “Tell me about what made it horrible” lets the child know you are listening. Sometimes their response can be something that might seem trivial such as, “We had a substitute teacher” or “I had to sit next to (fill in the name) and I don’t like that kid” but that is big stuff in a child’s world. Resist the urge to make it seem like a trivial complaint. Instead respond with “I can see how that made you unhappy” or “It sounds like that was really hard for you.”
Once the child has had a chance to tell you all about what their day was like, ask them if there was anything that they can think of that was good about their day. This allows for a transition from thinking about all the bad that happened to the one good thing that did happen. Even if it’s a really small thing, something good happens everyday if we know how to look for it and that is why I started the “All Good Things” wall at my house.
The “All Good Things” wall consists of using a large roll of art paper or a few big pieces of poster board and taping it to a wall. Ask your child to think of one good thing that happened that day and have them write it on the paper. The whole family can contribute to the wall and it’s fun to see what constitutes a good day for someone. Some examples of some of the good things on our wall include, “I had my favorite sandwich at lunch today”, “I got a row to myself on the train to work this morning”, “I got to see my family when I came home from school” and “We had ice cream for dessert tonight.”
If you have a child who is going through a tough time or who might benefit from looking for the brighter side of things, give this a try. This can be modified to use in hospital settings as well, where it may seem like everyday is a bad day for a child. Again, its looking for the little things, such as “I got to make a fun art project” or “I had my favorite nurse today” or “My sister got to come visit me in the hospital.”
After the first day we put up the wall my first grader told me on the way to the school bus the next morning that she couldn’t wait to come home and write something good on the wall. So here’s to hoping she stops wanting to move to Australia!