Self-talk is our inner voice. Much of teen self-talk is pretty reasonable—I should study for my test, or I’m psyched for my game tonight. Some of their self-talk, though, is negative, unrealistic, and self-defeating—I’ll never make that team, or my teachers probably hate me. Teaching teens positive self-talk can really help.
One of the best tools we can use to help teens fight negative self-talk is to show them that it’s possible to test, challenge, and change their self-talk. By challenging irrational thoughts and replacing them with more reasonable ones, they can change how they feel about things.
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How to challenge self-talk
Teaching teens to dispute self-talk means challenging the unhelpful aspects. Ask them to name triggering feelings like sadness, anger, and anxiety. Explain that they should use these feelings as a signal to stop and become aware of their thoughts.
One great trick for testing the accuracy of their perceptions might be to ask themselves a challenging question about the experience. There are four main types of challenging questions:
1. Reality testing
- What is my evidence for and against my thinking?
- Are my thoughts based on facts or my interpretations?
- How can I find out if my thoughts are true?
2. Look for alternative explanations
- Are there any other ways that I could look at this situation?
- What is the positive spin on this situation?
3. Putting it in perspective
- What is the worst/best thing that could happen?
- Is that most likely to happen?
4. Using goal-directed thinking
- Is thinking this way helping me to feel good or to achieve my goals?
- What can I do that will help me solve the problem?
- Is there something I can learn from this situation?
Helping teens look at things from different perspectives and giving them a way to change things for themselves is motivating and rewarding. To help them conquer negative self-talk, we partnered with our friends at The Allstate Foundation to create a poster that contains alternatives to common negative self-talk statements. Our goal? Help them think differently. Print the poster and hang it where the teens in your life can see it regularly.
GET MY SELF-TALK POSTER
With practice, teens may learn to notice negative self-talk as it happens and consciously choose to think about a situation in a more realistic and helpful way. Want to learn more? Check out 12 Fun Ways to Build SEL Skills During Advisory or Homeroom.