Diagnosis

Asking these questions is the way to start your makeover campaign.

Why. Why is your kid such a pessimist? Does she hear only dismal views of the world at home? Is she experiencing frequent frustrations or failures? Does she listen to despairing CD lyrics? Has anything fueled such a negative view—for instance, a traumatic event that could be triggering pessimistic feelings about the world, a change in your family, a divorce, a world event, the death of a loved one, a move, or a class or school change? What about a new teacher, school difficulties, relationship frictions, or a hectic schedule that might have triggered the attitude? Pessimism can also be a sign of more serious issues such as physical health, anxiety, low self-esteem, trauma, or depression. For your older child, could substance abuse be a possibility for her pessimism? If you think any of these more deeply engrained issues could be provoking pessimism, seek help from a trained professional.Talk to other adults who know your child well. What will you do?

What. Are there particular issues or things he usually expresses more pessimism about? For instance, is he pessimistic about the world in general or more specific things, such as his ability to succeed in an athletic endeavor, learn a particular subject (spelling, history, math), get along with friends, cope with a new teacher, coach, or stepparent, or be able to try any new experience?

Who. Does he express the same pessimistic attitude to everyone? Are there some individuals she does not use this attitude on? If so, who? Why are they spared?

When. Is there a particular time of day, week, or month she is more pessimistic? Might there be a reason? For example, is it in evidence following the nightly news, a family discussion, or visiting an elderly acquaintance? Can you identify when your kid became more pessimistic? Was there a particular event or incident that might have triggered or intensified her pessimistic views? If so, what do you think it was?

Where. Are there certain places she is more likely to express pessimism (at school, the babysitter's house, an athletic event, a particular teacher, a visit to a certain relative)? Why?

Now take a look at your answers. Are you seeing any predictable patterns? Do you have any better understanding of this attitude and where it's coming from? Talk to others who know your child well.Write down your thoughts.

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