It’s that happy time of the year again. Or not. The holidays may not seem so joyous to children and teens who are living through a new divorce, have experienced a loss, or are expecting family strife during their time off from school.
Here are a few quick, dynamic strategies to help moderate some of the depression and sadness you’re seeing in your youngsters. These strategies are intended to be quick helps, not substitutes for seeking on-going help if the upset is more than situational. Skip the strategies entirely and contact a mental health professional right away if the child’s safety is in doubt, but most of the time, you can count on these inventive strategies to help:
For children who wish they were elsewhere
Teach these youngsters to “bloom where they’re planted.”
For children who stew in depressing thoughts
First, help the children understand they are not their thoughts, that many negative thoughts can be controlled and don’t have to be inevitably endured. Second, have the children imagine that their negative thoughts are packed on board a big train that is about to pull out of the station. Suggest to the child that they “don’t get on board the Pain Train” and that they let the train pull out of the station without them.
For children who say they can’t control their sadness
Teach: “Thinking Sad Thoughts = Feeling Sad.” Help youngsters manage those sad thoughts. Have the child imagine that the bad thoughts are visitors coming to their house while the child watches without reacting. Humorously instruct the child to “not yell at this visitor, don’t cook for this one, don’t hide from this other one, just watch.” Use this metaphor to teach youngsters to watch instead of be helplessly overwhelmed by upsetting thoughts.
Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops, http://www.youthchg.com. She is a popular counselor and teacher professional development speaker. Ruth is also the author of dozens of books, including Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth series. Ruth’s next behavior and classroom management workshops are coming in 2014 to Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. Find Ruth on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/youthchange.
Photo credit © Nadezda Soboleva