Cognitive distortions, or distorted thinking, can be detrimental to a child’s ability to reach their fullest potential when it comes to academics, self-image, and relationships.
When children obsess over negative thoughts, those distorted thoughts may suffocate their potential. For example, the comparison game can become quite brutal, and negative self-talk dominates students stuck in this rut.
The good news is, school counselors can help their students reframe their mindset by teaching them how to acknowledge unhelpful thoughts and labeling them as such.
Doing so helps them identify negative thoughts so they can reach their potential.
In the book, Sammy Sloth’s Unhelpful Thoughts, children (ages 9-12 years) join Sammy on a journey that navigates through negativity and plops the sloth out on the other side with a new frame of mind, and self-image.
Here’s how you can use Sammy Sloth’s Unhelpful Thoughts to help your students discard distorted thinking.
Comparison Game and Cognitive Distortions in Students
One of the biggest problems for students with low self-esteem comes from comparing themselves to their peers. This can be in school, on tv, and of course on social media.
Like many youngsters, Sammy Sloth worries that he’s not as good as his peers. He fears that he’s too slow and not as smart. And instead of shining a light on his own positive traits, he sees the good in everyone else (and then uses those traits against himself).
Sammy constantly compares himself to all of his jungle friends:
- Cheetah is a better runner.
- Elephant never forgets
- Hyena is always laughing at him
But just because the little sloth acknowledges the good in others, it doesn’t mean he is any less of a sloth.
Labeling Cognitive Distortions
Because labeling distorted thoughts is one of the easiest ways to leave the comparison game in the past, the book uses the example of an X-ray to bring unhelpful (negative) thoughts to light. The character, Dr. Wise, is able to point out distorted thoughts and teaches Sammy that emotions aren’t always truth-telling.
Sammy the Sloth learns how to recognize the thoughts that make him feel afraid, guilty, and disappointed. And instead, he learns to identify the good in every situation.
In fact, Sammy discovers that not only does he have his own positive character traits, he learns how important they are when disaster strikes.
Implement Sammy The Sloth in Your Classroom
Many students come to school counselors with the inability to manage their emotions. And this dysregulation can leave students feeling withdrawn and unable to perform.
Because Sammy is so relatable, students feel empowered to change the way they think about themselves as well.
Students learn how to react calmly and confidently in social situations with peers and teachers, which ultimately leads to better grades and fewer disruptions.
When teaching SEL with books, it’s important to incorporate activities. Games that focus on emotional intelligence, feeling words, self-regulation, and self-expression will help drive the point home with some critical thinking and engagement.
So, if you would like to check out these companion lessons, I’ve created these to use with the book.
Feelings Check Ins & Coping Skills
Download these free Sammy Sloth informational posters:
The Inspiration for Sammy Sloth
As a school counselor, I’ve seen students become stuck, or stunted by their own distorted thinking. And I knew we needed a book that can teach upper elementary and pre-teens how to examine and alter their thought patterns and reframe cognitive distortions.
Sammy the Sloth’s Unhelpful Thoughts draws on some of the most common cognitive distortions and discusses how to reframe their mindset in a fun, engaging, way.
Sammy is a memorable, relatable, character that can be referenced when distortions arise.
And the connection that students feel with Sammy will help them see that there’s a different way to think about themselves. A more positive and forgiving way.