1. Re­grets about school.

Dayton Daily News - - LIFE -

Many peo­ple be­gin ther­apy to talk about their past, re­flect­ing upon what might have been as a way to un­der­stand what is.

It’s healthy to think about the im­pact of yes­ter­day’s de­ci­sions, and hav­ing re­grets are com­mon. Re­search pub­lished by Mor­ri­son and Roese in the journal So­cial Psy­cho­log­i­cal and Per­son­al­ity Sci­ence re­vealed that the most fre­quent re­grets fo­cused on ro­mance, fol­lowed by con­cerns about fam­ily, ca­reer, ed­u­ca­tion, fi­nance and par­ent­ing.

It’s not sur­pris­ing that re­grets about re­la­tion­ships and fam­ily were the most com­mon. Our hap­pi­ness is most af­fected by the con­nec­tions we have with oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly our spouse, chil­dren and close friends. When we feel un­happy, it’s ap­pro­pri­ate to won­der about those re­la­tion­ships. Are they real, lov­ing, sup­port­ive and emo­tion­ally re­ward­ing?

While we can’t change the past, we can learn from it. Un­der­stand­ing the con­di­tions that led to cer­tain de­ci­sions may help us avoid sim­i­lar prob­lems to­day. Even so, many par­ents seem to be pris­on­ers of their past, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to live in the present.

Kids have re­grets as well and freely talk about those feel­ings in the safety of my of­fice. I tell young­sters those emo­tions are not to be avoided, but rather un­der­stood and acted upon. How­ever, it’s hard to write a new chap­ter in your life if you are pre­oc­cu­pied with re­vis­it­ing yes­ter­day’s events.

Here’s my un­sci­en­tific list of the three most com­mon re­grets kids dis­cuss with me. I hear this from older kids, who fi­nally re­al­ize that poor grades have long-term con­se­quences that limit their choices about what they will do with their lives. Re­grets about ed­u­ca­tion are the fourth most com­mon con­cern of adults, as well.

2. Re­grets about “not telling.”

Kids talk with ther­a­pists be­cause of prob­lems, and of­ten those is­sues are re­lated to some­thing bad hap­pen­ing to them. It may be con­nected to fam­ily tur­moil, abuse, bul­ly­ing or in­tense in­se­cu­ri­ties.

Kids don’t usu­ally talk with adults or peers about se­ri­ous prob­lems, and of­ten re­gret not do­ing so. This is par­tic­u­larly true in si­t­u­a­tions of child abuse, where young­sters re­main silent for a va­ri­ety of com­plex and con­fus­ing rea­sons. When they fi­nally do speak up, there is a tremen­dous sense of re­gret for not telling some­one what was go­ing on.

3. Re­grets about hurt­ing their fam­ily.

Some kids have been the source of in­cred­i­ble pain for their par­ents. I may ini­tially en­cour­age this guilt as a way to mo­ti­vate th­ese dis­turbed kids. I’ll have them write let­ters of apol­ogy, and fo­cus on what they can do as resti­tu­tion for bad be­hav­ior. Want­ing their par­ents to feel proud of them can be a strong mo­ti­va­tor for be­hav­ior change.

Next week:

How to be a ther­a­peu­tic part­ner

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