Post Holiday Blues: Helping your child through it

Jennifer Jencks, Ph.D.

Fall is a season busy with the return to school, a few three-day weekends, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the new year. The numerous celebrations and time off from the regular routine can lead to a ‘let down’ effect when January comes around.  This feeling can be intensified by gray weather, limited daylight, and even dietary changes due to colder weather. 

Here are a few suggestions for parents to help your child thrive until spring:

  • Get Active! Exercise is one of the best methods for balancing our body’s energy levels and improving our mood.  Walk, hike, ski, build a snow person or igloo, go skating, sledding, etc. The more active you and your child are the better you both will feel.
  • Eat well (Seriously!) It seems easier to find and enjoy fresh, healthy food in the summer, but much harder in winter. Make every effort to enjoy fresh vegetables and fruits, and limit your family’s access to sugary snacks and drinks by leaving them off the grocery list. And while we often crave those warm, heavy comfort foods, they’re often not the healthiest options. Try to focus on buying healthier foods – you’ll feel better.
  • Create new post-holiday traditions. Holidays are full of traditions that children look forward to and families enjoy! When the holidays are over, children may feel disappointed that they have “nothing to look forward to.” So create new traditions that are fun (and inexpensive) like board game or movie nights.
  • Surround yourself with positive, fun-loving people! Who we surround ourselves with influences how we feel, so be sure you choose to spend time with positive, fun-loving people during these months.  Laughing naturally leads to better emotional regulation, and creates better bonds between family and friends. As a family, try volunteering or making crafts to donate to people in need. Reap the benefit of the positive emotions that come from giving to others and knowing your efforts make a big difference in someone else’s life.
  • Increase sleep and stick to a routine. Sleep is critical for functioning well throughout the day, especially in the more challenging winter months.  Create a sleep schedule and stick to it to ensure you and your child have what you need to fight off illness and negative emotions.  You can add new pre-sleep activities, such as listening to books on CD or reading together, if that helps to get everyone into the routine.  Children love family time, and the end of the day can be a great time for everyone to relax together.

There are many ways to support your children during the post-holiday season. Start today, and keep trying new things. Before you know it, spring will arrive and we will all be back outside, enjoying fresh air and sunshine!

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