Conflict and the negative thoughts that go along with it are an inevitable part of family life in all families. This is especially true when dealing with couple conflict and parenting. However, your ability to challenge your ANTs will go a long way in protecting your children from the negative impact of your couple conflict. For example, trying to give your partner (and your children) the benefit of the doubt can be helpful. Also, avoid taking things personally and jumping to the worst possible conclusions about your partner when there’s conflict. Finally, you will want to challenge your negative thoughts in your own head and make this a habit. For example, if your partner appears to be in a bad mood and acting negatively toward you or the kids, challenge the idea that they are angry with you and the children and consider other alternatives. Even better, ask your partner directly what’s going on with them (in a non-confrontational way) as you may very well find that their mood is more about work or some other stressor.
Many people find it helpful to have positive thought mantras prepared for hard moments with the partner or children. For example, you may say to yourself “We’re having a bad day but I’m still thankful for my wife and kids” or “This is a stressful time for us all but I know that we’ll get through it.” By challenging your negative thoughts and using positive ones on a regular basis, you will become a part of the solution in your family instead of the problem as your emotions and behaviors will, in turn, become more positive as well.
Treating couple conflict and parenting problems involve being aware of the ANTs that occur for you that are related to these issues. Once you are more aware of these, you will be in a better position to alter them quickly so that they do not interfere with your ability to effectively parent your children. Use the following worksheet to work on challenging your own ANTs.
You may find it helpful to refer back to the exercise in the previous session for any negative thoughts that you identified there, as some of these may qualify as your typical ANTs (see Session 4, Topic 2: Identify and Explore Problem Thoughts). Continue to use this worksheet throughout the next few days to monitor yourself and record any ANTs that you experience during various situations that come up in your life.
Download and print the worksheet to challenge your ANTs here: Challenging ANTs
In session 6, we look at utilizing an activity plan to reduce conflict, improve family relationships, and facilitate effective parenting.