If you have a child experiencing feelings of sadness, loneliness, or depression, you may feel at a loss as to what to do to help them. Of course, the first thing you will do is bring them to their healthcare provider and follow whatever treatment plan they provide, but is there more you could be doing? As a matter of fact, there is. Making sure your child has a healthy eating schedule, is participating in physical activity each day, and is getting the recommended amount of sleep each night is essential.
In addition, you can help your child by having them practice mindfulness or relaxation techniques. One way to learn more about this is to read with them, starting with Kelly Caleb’s new book, Now Cow Helps Mole in the Hole: A Mindful Tale for Coping with Depression.
Continue reading this article to learn how mindfulness can help your child cope with symptoms of depression.
How Mindfulness Can Help Children Cope with Depression
If you and your child already have a mindfulness practice you’re familiar with, they understand how to detach themselves from their thoughts. This can help when their thoughts turn against them, such as when they have thoughts like, “you’re worthless.”
With mindfulness techniques, your child can change the thought, “I am worthless,” to the observation, “I am having a thought that I am worthless.” This bit of distance from the thought can help them let go of judgment, criticism, and ruminations about the past. They can also more easily share their thoughts with you or another trusted adult. It is not easy to share the “fact” that they are worthless with someone, but much easier to share the fact that they are having a thought that is telling them they are worthless. They are more open, then, to discussing the falseness of this thought.
Depression is often very isolating, making your child feel like they are alone in the world and unlike others. They feel ashamed of this difference and want to stay away from others for fear of their seeing the truth.
Practicing self-kindness mindfulness can help your child recognize their common humanity with others and help them not to over-identify with their perceived flaws. For example, they can focus on phrases such as:
May I be safe
May I be healthy
May I be happy
May I live in peace
Another practice to help them connect with others is to observe other people, whether they know them or not, and remind themselves:
Just like me, they want to be happy.
Just like me, they make mistakes and feel bad.
Just like me, they are doing the best they can.
Practicing self-compassion and recognizing their common humanity are ways for children to get away from the thoughts that are trying to take them down a spiral of negativity. In addition to these mindful practices, they can always ask for help from trusted friends and adults who understand what they are going through.
Depression Treatment for Children That Includes Mindfulness
Again, the first plan of treatment for children with depression is whatever their doctor or therapist prescribes. That may very well include mindfulness practices, but if it doesn’t, you can add mindfulness to your child’s treatment at home. Being aware that what their brain is trying to tell them is a lie and reminding themselves of basic truths are mindful ways to attack depression at its source.
Find out how Now Cow attacks depression in Now Cow Helps Mole in the Hole: A Mindful Tale for Coping with Depression. Mole in the Hole wishes he could get out and be with friends and enjoy the sunlight, but he just stays in his bed crying in the darkness. Join the journey as Now Cow and his friends reach out to help Mole in the Hole believe in himself enough to accept support and friendship even when he feels down.
Operation Jack’s Village
If you’re a parent, therapist, teacher, or another caregiver of adolescents, we invite you to check out Operation Jack’s Village—an organization that focuses on a comprehensive approach to adolescent suicide awareness and prevention. Help your adolescents survive, thrive, and soar.