We know that one thing that we all do too much is focus on what we don’t have and things that we have little control over, and that instead, we want to practice focusing on what we do have and what we can do. We’ve all experienced how hard it is to focus on the big picture, our strengths, and our goals, especially when things aren’t working out. It’s important to remember that we control the focus of our thoughts and that how we feel in each moment comes from our what we are thinking about or focusing on. 

Committing to making it our job to “shrink” the time spent on what could go wrong and expanding the amount of time spent on what we can do to make go right, on what we bring – not in terms of talent or achievements, but in pure intention of creating and contributing – will not only lead to less negative emotion, but to more growth and positive experiences.  

What we do have and what we can do

It turns out, because our body feels so much more comfortable scanning and planning for the worst, it’s actually pretty hard to focus on what we do have even when things are going well! Have you ever noticed the feeling that when you’re feeling happy about something, that you don’t want to think too much about it? That you might jinx it? Or the feeling that you need to start planning for what might go wrong next so that things continue to go well? Our mind actually feels more comfortable anticipating danger and planning and worrying. You and your child will actually have to work to form a habit of slowing down and thinking about what you are focusing on, and then move to thinking about what you can do to create more of what you want and focusing more time on the people, things, and experiences you are grateful for. 

But the effort is so worth it and it is a skill worth teaching to your kids. Waking up and, instead of thinking of how you will avoid the problems of the day, thinking of all the things you are grateful for and how you can enjoy and explore your interests, family and friends more. Not only will they feel more at peace, more joyful, and less stressed – they will also be putting themselves in a position where they will be creating and experiencing more of the things that bring them joy. 

Conversation Starter: 

We often think about all the things we don’t want (don’t want to have a bad day, don’t want homework), and all the things we want more of (more friends, more toys, more holidays). These thoughts make us feel worried, sad, and sometimes even angry.

But if you can pause and focus on the things you already have, the bad things become like little obstacles that you might notice but not need to give much time and energy to. When you’re having a tough day, it helps to think of the things you’re grateful for. When we focus on the things we’re grateful for, we feel good. And when we feel good, we put more energy and joy in everything we do which then makes our whole day better.  Let’s try to make our days brighter as often as possible.  Take a few minutes to list the things that you are grateful for.

Here are some ideas for prompts:

  • Things or people who make me laugh
  • Three nice things that happened today
  • The people who love me
  • Songs, movies, and/or books that I love
  • Tastes and smells (yummy foods or items that always smell nice)
  • People or things that make my life easier or nicer, such as teachers, coaches, doctors, firefighters, and so on
  • The “everyday” things that we often forget about (cars, buses, trains, or planes that takes me where I need to go; grocery stores that make it easy to get food;traffic lights so people don’t get stuck at corners; sports team that I like to watch and cheer for; my brain for making it that I can remember things, the trees for making oxygen!)

Learn more about how to teach awareness and compassion and become a resilience expert yourself by reading Khanna & Kendall (2021). The Resilience Recipe: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids in the Age of Anxiety. New Harbinger.

This post contains excerpts from Khanna & Kendall (2021). The Resilience Recipe: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids in the Age of Anxiety. New Harbinger.


  • Dr. Muniya Khanna

    Author, Researcher, Clinical Psychologist

    The OCD & Anxiety Institute

    Dr. Khanna is a clinical psychologist and researcher specializing in the treatment and study of anxiety and OCD. Dr. Khanna has been involved in some of the most important research in the field of child anxiety in the last 15 years. This published research has established what is now the gold-standard treatments children and adolescents used in hospitals, clinics and schools around the world. She is a pioneer in web-based mental health research having spent the last decade working towards improving access to evidence-based mental health services in under-resourced populations by leveraging technology. Dr. Khanna is author of “The Worry Workbook for Kids” with Dr. Deborah Ledley and co-author with Dr. Phil Kendall, of The CAT Project treatment manual for CBT for anxiety in adolescents as well as their upcoming book, “The Resilience Recipe: Raising Fearless Kids in the Age of Anxiety.”