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Lesson 18: Muddy or Clear Thoughts?

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Hello again, families! It might be starting to feel like it’s “never going to end”, that it is “always going to be really hard”, or that “everyone is handling this better” than you are. It is easy to fall into a negative feedback loop during difficult times. The good news is that today’s focus skills is identifying muddy versus clear thinking. Muddy thoughts are often extreme (picture wearing glasses with mud on them – you can’t see well and might not interpret what is going on around you accurately), while clear thoughts tend to be more realistic.

Muddy thinking: using extreme or negative thoughts/words that make us feel sad or angry (ex., I’m ALWAYS last, YOU NEVER let me play, EVERYONE does that). These words typically aren’t accurate.

Clear thinking: words/thoughts that make us feel happy and calm and help us to work with others (ex., sometimes I’m first, sometimes I’m last; sometimes people like time alone; sometimes they want to play; sometimes things don’t go my way). These words/phrases are typically more realistic.

Our body starts to believe our thoughts whether they are muddy or clear. These thoughts become the truth even when they may not be correct for the situation. The good news is that we can re-train our brains to see things in a more clear way, it just takes practice! Working to change muddy thoughts into clear thoughts can help everyone at home feel more positive and ready to handle challenges.

Suggestions for using this skill:

● Turn this skill into a game by having your child guess whether statements are muddy or clear. Children could even come up with ideas and have parents and siblings guess. Make it fun!

● Encourage your child to use clear thinking words when interacting with others and when responding to situations. Try to help them turn muddy thinking to clear thinking by providing examples (ex. sometimes you do go last, but other times you are first; sometimes your sister does want to play with you and other times she wants to be alone).

● Notice when you use muddy thinking and share that with your child (even adults have muddy thinking sometimes, what could I say instead?).

During this time, it is easy to get stuck with lots of muddy thoughts. Please remember (and help your child remember), that everyone has muddy thoughts sometimes, especially when things are new, difficult, or different. Everyone can work on changing muddy thoughts to clear thoughts; the first step is recognizing then we get stuck with muddy thoughts in the first place!


Marissa Lloyd, LPCMH

Note: Muddy thoughts terminology was adapted from the game Clear Thinking by Franklin Learning Systems, Inc. (2000)

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