“No one ever plays with me! They always go out to ride their bikes and leave me inside.” Karlie sighs as she watches her older brothers riding up and down the driveway.
“I’m too tired to pick up any more, Mom.” Five-year-old Jafari dramatically plops on the floor by the toy box, job incomplete.
Frustrated and about to cry, Sam runs into the kitchen, “Dad, Henry is being mean to me. He keeps looking at me and then whispering about it.”
“Why do I always have to do chores? I hate doing chores…” Yoonah sticks her bottom lip out as she sloshes the dishcloth in the soapy water after dinner.
These examples share a common thread – they are real life expressions you have probably heard your children use. You may be able to relate with the emotions, imagine the tone of voice, remember the words your child uses, or resonate with the problems. And we know you could add a host of your own illustrations!
It may seem like your children’s cycle of big emotions, impulsive reactions and common complaints have become a regular occurrence. As your children grow, chances are that you run into repeating patterns on a regular basis. And at times these patterns can be frustrating both for you and your children. Do you ever feel stuck, unsure how to change things and at a loss of what the core issues even are?
While certain interventions may be effective for some children, many of us miss the mark when it comes to addressing the root issues. You’re not alone in the difficulty of knowing how to respond constructively while helping your children to process their big emotions and teaching them to problem solve the challenges they are facing.
Cognitive distortions are some of the thoughts and beliefs we hold that significantly influence behavior, emotions, and feelings. And no surprise, kids also experience cognitive distortions. But the good news is that the need for effectively challenging the situations and cognitive distortions of daily living is being addressed through new, helpful tools. We’re excited to introduce you to Millie and Her Tangled Thoughts: A Book to Help Catch, Check, And Change Distorted Thinkingwritten by Krystin Henley, LMFT and illustrated by Melissa Mundall.
Millie and Her Tangled Thoughts is a 36 page children’s picture book that helps kids become more aware and intentional with their thinking. This book not only introduces how thoughts impact us, but also outlines an overview of all 10 common cognitive distortions while giving tools to change them. Children learn to first catch Millie’s distorted thoughts and then check them by asking “Is it true? Is it helpful?” Finally, they discover how Millie changes her thoughts from negative and distorted to be more rational, true, and helpful. All 10 distortions are explained through simple situations young children can relate to, such as being afraid to make another mistake on the soccer field to having a friend not want to play, or wondering if others are talking behind their back.
Like the beginning example of Karlie’s lamentation that she is always left out of her brothers’ fun and games, maybe you’ve heard your kids use the “all-or-nothing” words. Millie also experiences “all-or-nothing thinking” in Millie and Her Tangled Thoughts but is reminded that very few things in life are really all one way or the other. Millie sets the example for your kids by checking her thinking. Just as Millie examines and changes her thoughts, your kids can begin to recognize ways they can be like Millie and catch, check, and change their own thinking.
Not only does Millie and Her Tangled Thoughts examine the 10 common distorted thinking patterns, but the book also provides parents and educators with helpful explanations about cognitive behavioral therapy, more questions to ask when assessing thoughts, and tips for different ages about how to change thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Whether a child, teenager, or adult, readers of all ages can benefit by learning practical ways to combat distorted thinking. Children as young as four will be drawn into the engaging illustrations that depict Millie’s depth of emotion as she navigates her thoughts throughout the story, while adults will be prompted with its simplistic message to check for rational thoughts.
Millie and Her Tangled Thoughts will spark an interest in learning more about the power our thoughts have on influencing how we feel and behave. It empowers the reader to untangle negative thinking and invite Jesus into the process of choosing a better thought. Working to correct thoughts and emotions can improve our children’s moral character and help them reduce impulsive reactions and handle strong emotions to respond in a calmer way.
Would you like the opportunity to spend more time with your children, to have positive experiences surrounding their emotions and behaviors, and to start having conversations about behaviors in a fun, productive way? Engaging with your children in a practical way by reading about Millie’s distorted thinking detective work will open up endless opportunities for you to begin challenging and changing thinking patterns. This process will set your children up for successful, helpful thinking that will benefit them both now and for the rest of their lives.
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About the author
Krystin Henley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a special emphasis in working with children. She has a passion for teaching others about cognitive behavioral therapy and emotional intelligence, as well as providing practical resources through her ministry Nurturing Characters. Krystin enjoys traveling, gardening, and navigating toddler life alongside her husband, Jackson. Together they have 3 precious girls. Krystin is the author of the new children’s book Millie and Her Tangled Thoughts.
Cami Martin Gotshall, MPH, is the Health Education Director for Nedley Health. She is an international trainer for the community-based health education program Optimize Your Brain™ and the 8-week Nedley Depression & Anxiety Recovery Program™. Her passion is disseminating information on living a mentally healthy lifestyle to people around the world. Cami works closely with all Nedley Health programs to continually enhance and expand each program.