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Lesson 24: Big Deal or Little Deal?

Hope you are off to a good Thursday! As time goes on and the repetitive nature of our days continue, things that we could easily handle on day one may not be easy to handle now. A rainy day at the beginning was a day to enjoy some indoor games and movies. Rainy days now may feel much more difficult to handle…probably because we have watched everything we wanted to watch and we have had plenty of time to play games. What seemed like a little deal weeks ago now seems much bigger today.

Today’s target skill is learning to recognize and appropriately perceive what is a big deal vs. little deal. This self-awareness technique helps us recognize our perception or our private logic (the way we view ourselves, others, and the world). Especially during times of stress, our brain can get it wrong. These two different categories can be defined by using this criteria:

Suggestions for using this skill:

● As a family brainstorm mountain (big deal) problems vs. mole hill (little deal) problems as they relate to your home or situation. Identify strategies to handle each (independent skills or ways of seeking support from adults). Do this activity when everyone is at calm state and when difficulties are not occurring.

● Encourage your child to decide if a problem is a mountain or a mole hill. They will be much more receptive if they can identify that a problem is smaller than it was initially perceived. Empower your child to use skills and strategies to cope.

● Prior to starting academic tasks, ask your child if they think the assignment or task is a mountain or mole hill. This can help you gauge the amount of help they may need with the actual task or to identify strategies to cope. Ask your child what ideas they have to make the task feel more manageable.

● Prior to starting games, have a discussion about mountain/mole hill concepts. To prevent your child from feeling targeted use language that is for the entire family (what if we don’t get the game piece that is our favorite color vs. what if you don’t get the blue piece). Would it be a big deal or little deal? How can we handle it?

● When your child is upset, validate feelings. Even little/mole hill problems can still make us upset and can cause changes in our bodies (faster heartrate, breathing, stomach ache, headache, etc.). It’s important to help your child recognize these changes and help them to connect the sensations with their feelings. Use positive self-talk to help them remind themselves that they are OK even though they feel mad or sad.

● Remind your child that every time they cope with difficulties they are being courageous and getting stronger. They will be much better able to handle future difficulties.

● Ask your child how they would help a friend with a similar problem. What advice would they give? Sometimes it’s easier to help other people with problems than it is to solve our own.

● Try to separate your child’s “overreaction” from personal qualities or labels (you are being so dramatic or sensitive). Focus more on the science of what happens with our brains and bodies when we are upset; we go into fight, flight, or freeze mode and we can’t access the “thinking part of our brains”. The first step is getting calm and the problem solving can occur later.

● Share kid-friendly examples with your child of times when your brain got it wrong.

● Remind your child that they are part of a team and they never have to handle problems alone. Even when you are not directly helping, let your child know that they always have your love and support to provide strength and to steer them in the right direction.

● Go to for a short activity on coping with difficulties.

Notice when your child (or you) reacts as though something is a big deal when typically it would be viewed a little deal. This will happen and it’s important to be patient with yourself and others. Be curious about this change in perception that is causing an “overreaction”. It’s often not about the “game piece” and instead is about an overall sense of stress. Ask yourself what feeling or need is underneath the behavior or the reaction. Is there a lack of sleep, loss of control, lack of positive connections, or feeling hopeless, inadequate or having general feelings related to anxiety? Try to identity and support these feelings and needs. This will not only address the need for the specific game piece but it will also support other situations too. We hope you all have a great day. 


Marissa Lloyd, LPCMH

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