How Do You Quiet a Child’s Mind and Prevent Depression?

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My dad’s father killed himself when my dad was a child. My dad has fought with depression all his life. Depression has run on my dad’s side of the family for generations, particularly with the men. I usually forget about this until my son asks me questions like, “Why is it that I cannot switch my mind off? I want to stop my mind from thinking.”  I know that is a common question of a seven-year-old with an inquisitive mind, but given our family history, I’m always extra sensitive to those type of questions.

 

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My son is a very deep person.  I remember when he was five and I felt sad after dropping him at his first day of school in kinder. He told me, “Mama don’t be sad, that is how life is, we have to grow.”

 

We went to visit my husband’s dad, who lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, on our way back from Ecuador. While we were driving to my father-in-law’s, my son posed the question about how could he stop his mind from thinking.  At that moment, I just acknowledge the fact that the mind indeed never stops thinking. Later on and thanks to our visit to my husband’s dad, I was able to give him a better response.

 

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My father-in-law is a veterinarian who has an intense love of nature and animals. He also loves to exercise and runs, hikes, rows or even sometimes goes berry picking (as a day laborer, though he doesn’t need the money of it) as a form of exercise.  I was a bit nervous to see him at his place, as we had not gone to visit him for a couple of years. Once I got there though, there was no time for nervousness, as he took us hiking, fishing, to visit organic farms, to see how glass objects are made and one night, while staying at a fishing cabin on a gorgeous lake, he even showed the kids how Native Americans used to make smoke signals.  He also took us on one of his favorite activities: berry picking, where he doesn’t just grab a couple of berries but fills a couple of buckets full of them.

 

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While in charge of filling one of the buckets with my son, who really got into finding the darkest blueberries to put in the bucket, a better answer to my son’s question came to my mind.  We were feeling so Zen and after a couple of hours of walking and berry picking, I was able to tell him, “Remember when you asked me how you can stop your mind from thinking? We can’t stop it, but when we don’t want it to think about something we don’t like, we can redirect it. I bet your mind is probably just thinking about how to find the berries you are looking for right?”  I was also able to explain to him that running is so important for me because not only do I keep in shape like that, but because I‘m able to control my thoughts better when I run.

 

Depression is a hard issue to deal with and I know in many cases it takes more than running to overcome. Our visit to grandpa in New Hampshire was very inspiring. I cannot prevent depression from ever happening to my kids or myself, but hopefully we can do enough activities that could teach us to find peace within.

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Born to a large family in Quito, Ecuador, Carmen Cordovez went to bilingual Spanish/English school from kindergarten through high school. Her childhood was happily spent going to the beach and riding horses during the summer. She studied and worked in advertising in Ecuador, before moving to Brazil to study computer science. She then moved to San Francisco and worked as a database administrator for Oracle, followed by a start-up. She has always loved traveling, and before having kids, traveled as much as she could to places like India, Burma, Turkey and more. Since having her two American-Ecuadorian kids, she spends her time raising her children, creating art, traveling and doing occasional consulting projects. Her children are currently fourth and first graders in a Mandarin immersion school and are able to communicate in Mandarin. They are also fluent in Spanish and English. She happily spends her summers on a yearly pilgrimage to Ecuador (or other Spanish speaking countries) to visit family for her children’s bicultural/bilingual experience. Carmen blogs at playinghopscotch.com about her experiences traveling.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this article. Ever since puberty, I found that I was prone to depression, always thinking and not knowing how to switch that off. Exactly as your son states, you realize it’s all in your head, you see other people thinking less and living more happily and you would do anything to get out of your own mind and be like them. I’ve jokingly said I should get a lobotomy in order to achieve a balance!
    The answer really is in physical activity. Let the body rule, and not the mind!
    I noticed that any physical activity completely lifts me up and makes me feel more alive and happy. I mean really anything with a purpose, but gardening and going on bike rides or walks have got to be some of the top activities which keep me in touch with reality. I’ve heard that for other people, having a pet to look after also helps.
    I also have to be aware when I am “over-reading” or “in a book slump” as my children call it. It means I am mentally running away instead of staying in reality. Nothing wrong with reading as long as you can avoid getting too “broody”. I suspect many people deal with this. We have to enjoy life via the 5 senses, thus reining (and reigning!) our minds. Thanks again.

  2. There is a whole body of books to teach mindfulness and meditation to children. I just got one called Moody Cow Meditates and my 7 year old loves it! It is a story that kids can totally relate to with a simple fun technique to help kids settle their mind- simply awesome! My daughter has a very busy mind and often struggles with her thoughts and she was happy to try this!

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