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How Magical Thinking Impacts Children

Children think differently from adults. Their stories and great imaginations keep us laughing, but their misunderstandings can cause them painful memories that haunt them for a lifetime. Professionals call it “Magical Thinking.” Children believe the world revolves around them. It seems like a good thing. When they hear and believe positive, it is. Since they believe the world revolves around them, they also believe they are responsible for bad things that happen. When there is a loss, such as divorce or the death of someone close to them or a tragic event such as abuse, they may believe it is their fault. That leads to feelings of guilt and shame. Sometimes even simple things can cause those feelings if someone gets angry or blames them.

What can we do? I would love to give you a magic bullet to destroy your child’s negative magical thinking, but no magic bullet exists. I do have an easy way to find out what your child thinks. Ask, but ask with sensitivity. Questions such as: “Who do you believe caused the divorce or death or whatever happened?” Wait for an answer. Then do your best to correct their misconceptions.

What not to say. Never blame another person, especially your child’s other parent. Your child needs the freedom to love their other parent, even if you don’t. In that case, the answer would be “divorce is a grown-up problem.” Also, don’t shame a child for a wrong answer. Just listen.

What About Adults? Adults may still hold on to magical thinking, such as, “I’m going to wash the car, then I know it will rain.” Humorous, but who hasn’t said things like that? Asa counselor, I have heard many sad stories from adults that still blame themselves for things that happened in their youth. Think back to your childhood. Do you remember an event that shaped the way you see yourself and the world? Please share it to help others.

Follow this link to find out how you or your church can minister to small groups of children who don’t live with both biological parents.  http://store.livingfree.org/Small-Group-Curriculums_c_51.htm

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