The Art of Reframing

It’s not just for artists and professional framers.

Reframing is a psychological tool that can simply transform your life. I know, it sounds pretty cliché, however- it’s the truth.

The other day I was parked in our 5-speed Nissan Sentra facing the playing field outside of my children’s school when I had a premonition of a tragedy about to occur. As I scanned the grass for signs of my boys, my car seemed to move forward with a mind of its own- straight into the students’ busy game of dodge ball! Adrenalin raced through my blood as I futilely slammed on the foot brake while simultaneously jerking the emergency brake upwards- all to no avail, as my car veered dangerously closer to the children.

I know that stick-shift cars (if you’ve ever driven one, you can certainly relate) tend to roll, so I pulled the emergency brake up even higher, and then I realized that my car wasn’t going anywhere at all; rather the minivan on my left was backing out of its parking spot, and the optical illusion made me feel that my car had been moving forward.

Thankfully, that terrifying scare was simply an illusion– an incident that appeared all-too-real, yet with the benefit ofimpossible cube hindsight and clarity of vision, was obviously nothing to be afraid of.

That got me thinking– how many times does it happen that we are afraid of something that seems imminently real and totally frightening, depressing, or frustrating- which later turns out to have been not much more significant than my optical illusion in the parking lot?

There’s a famous line that coaches and mentors often use; “Will it matter in five or ten years?

A tremendous amount of wisdom is implied by that question.

How many of the things that we have done 5 or ten years ago would we have eliminated if we had truly thought about the consequences of our actions? Personally, I’m feeling far too embarrassed to answer such a question publicly!

There’s a statistic I once read which stated that your child will confide in you at the age of seventeen 10% of what he’d shared with you at age seven.

With that in mind, wouldn’t it be prudent to look ahead and create more bonding moments with our children?

Five years from now will it matter that the kitchen floor remained a bit sticky for an additional day because we chose to look through old photo albums with our kids one evening?

Ten years from now will we look back with regret that we lost out on a good night’s sleep because we took a family trip?

When we look at the big picture, the little things simply fade away as though they were meaningless optical illusions.

Let’s plan ahead, as we make parenting choices this holiday season, with vision and clarity!

P.S.  Feel free to share any questions or concerns about parenting  below- so we can address them in the coming weeks:)

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  1. What a wonderful idea- to think ahead!

    So many of the little things that get me worked up would disappear if I used this technique more often.

  2. Ellen Pollack says:

    I had the exact same experience, (probably at the same school!) right down to the sweats when the car would not “stop”. The children were right in front of me on the sidewalk. However I did not come away from it with your take. Thank you for that!

  3. That story sure got my attention! Glad it was an optical illusion!
    That is how we parents of teens spend much of our time… looking at optical illusions! This is a great reminder to look at the big picture and ask,”What is really imoportant here?”
    Thanks Ellen,
    Anne Jolles

  4. Great article and very timely. Thanks for being you. You do an important work.

    I just finished an eBook called “Building Self Confidence with Encouraging Words.” The book talks about reframing and looking at long held beliefs and perceptions to see if they are even true.

    As always, I would love to have reviews and joint ventures with other parent organizations and ezines. If you are interested, please contact me at or call 406.549.9813

    I am a parent educator and author.

  5. Hey, thanks for the tip. I fully agree with you. Sometimes it’s not always possible because of financial circumstances. We do what we best can. Take care and keep up the good work 🙂

  6. Thanks Ellen for sharing, I cherish every moment with my 5 year old because I can see how fast it’s going with my 15 year old. The little details just don’t seem to matter any longer.

  7. This stirred up so much emotion in me (mostly guilt) that I am determined to reexamine my priorities in life now. Thanks for the prespective.

  8. Carrie Stockdill says:

    This reminded me of an activity I do with my 4th graders about being thankful. We take ordinary, kind of icky chores and turn them into positive thoughts. It’s sort of like rethinking something. Here’s how it works, you list chores you don’t particularily like, then you rewrite that chore with a grateful message. Some examples are, I’m so luciky I get to wash the dishes, because that means I have dishes to wash and food to get them dirty. I’m so lucky I get to mow the yard because that means I have a yard to play in and enjoy. I’m so lucky I get to clean up dog doo because that means I have a pet to love and care for. It is a fun way to get kids to think about what they have. Don’t we all have so much.

  9. Lynda Giguère says:

    A great read as always. An article I once read said, “I remember my mom’s warm cookies, not the dust bunnies on the floor”. As a working mom, I feel totally guilty of not being able to make ny boys warm cookies as an after school snack. But I make up for this lack when I get called to pick up my 3-yr old from the daycare when he is sick. I pick him up, call my boys’ school and have them take the bus. They now come off the bus with a bitter/sweet feeling. First, they come in asking how Sacha is doing but they also know that warm cookies and milk await them. (They don’t even take note of the dust bunnies!)

  10. I also had the same experience. It was so scary. But I thought that I couldn’t get my car to stop! Because it was the car infront of me rolling backwards. I like yor analysis. It sheds a light on diffrent percpectives.

  11. That is so true!!

    We tend to take life in general for granted. We should all appreciate the moment that we are in. Appreciate the time that we have to laugh and cry. Life is so short even if you live to be 100 – our children are only children for just a short period of time. Take time to listen to your children – they are the future of your family.

  12. Bob Lewis says:

    Thank you, Ellen. This story, along with your recent remeinder to reflect instead of react when communicating with children, have really helped me see my 6th graders as diamonds in the rough and works in progress all over again. How lucky I am to have the most challenging students in my classroom! If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have the most neediest of lives to touch. Will it matter in five years that I got them all to complete the worksheet on time regardless of realizing why they can’t complete it? I don’t think so.

  13. That was a great article. Whenever I think of reframing I think of reframing emotions rather than perspective. Perspective is a little easier to do, however reframing ones emotions give you an entire overhaul in experience.

  14. fraoch shiel says:

    Thankyou Im glad I just sat and watched a football match with my 10 yr old son and kitchen floor can wait till w/e

  15. Great story! And so true to give your kids the time they want/need now, rather than have them close themselves off of you, because they are used to you not listening when they were younger…
    I try (being a full time employee with three kids), but it’s not that easy.
    Reading stories and comments like this is very helpful, to keep us on our toes!

  16. Thanks Ellen, that was particularly poignant!

  17. Perfectly stated! Nice analogy with the car in the parking lot. As a self-proclaimed worrier, I’m considering tatooing the phrase, “Will it matter in 5 years” on my forearm! Keep up the great work.

  18. To true! A mum of a large family said to me once – “Just you wait until they’re teenagers, if you think the little ones are hard work” – I’m just so glad that I didn’t! , not that we’re through the woods yet. The more time and effort you put into the little ones lives, the better your long lasting relationships with them. If you only get 10%out of a 17 year old – put EVERYTHING you can into the 7s. Kids want YOU not things…And teenagers are a lot more fun than nappies, let me assure you!