Adolescents:  If Only Thinking

We all get caught up in “if only” thinking, and a close examination of this concerning adolescents will help to focus on the moment.  At times, I find myself thinking about why things should be different.  It might be, “if only I had not said that,” or “if only I had different parents” maybe, “if only we could afford . . . ”  All of these may be fine for a moment, but it is crucial to help our kids to learn to live in the moment.  To be fully present and work with what we have, where we are currently.

When we limit our thinking by holding on to if only thoughts, it is much like the second photo above, we are looking far away, either forward or backward-looking at something like looking through a telescope.  We only see a little bit of the picture, and in most cases, we’re not looking at where we are now and what opportunities we have.

This type of thinking can create an “in action” or even cripple us to move in the direction we want to go.  I believe in looking to the future, but not to the point of inaction in the present.   As parents, we teach kids to be fully present in their lives and be free from the past and the future.  It allows us to be aware of where we want to go, where we’ve been but based on current reality, what can I do now to move forward.  It transforms our thinking and leads to more happiness.

My take on this is to seize those opportunities when kids say, “I wish . . . ” by helping them to see how the little steps today lead them to a feeling of peace by accepting that the path is the journey.  Although the journey is challenging, your thoughts are the journey and lead us to the discoveries that we need to find today.  As parents reading this, I hope that you will seize these opportunities to speak with your kids about letting go of the past and future in favor of fully experiencing the present.

This process requires that you Be Good to Yourself, click here for the next steps, Being Good to Yourself – Dr. Rich Patterson (

If Only thinking can be very negative, read this article to stop this process, Making a Positive Change with Dr. Bill: 4 Tips on Stopping Negative “If Only Thinking” (


Yours for better parenting.