How to help your kids fight the “Winter Blues.”

The summer months just flew by while Lily and the rest of the Superheroes were having fun, preparing for the launch of the big book!

Now that fall is here, however, we’re all starting to notice that the daylight hours are shorter and shorter. School routines are back in session for most of us, and the nights are longer.

This happens every year and, while most of us are well adjusted to the changing seasons, sometimes adults and kids suffer from something called SAD. This is an abbreviation for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

When kids suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, part of the problem may be due to a decreased level of serotonin or an imbalance of melatonin that is usually not the case during the warmer, summer months. Of course, this is an oversimplification to what could be a more serious condition.  But if it is simply a case of the “Winter Blues,” we can certainly takes steps to get them through the fall and winter months.  

We know Lily would be right there to help cheer up any of her classmates and friends if she saw that they were sad or despondent.  But what are some of the signs of someone suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder?

If children are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, they may have trouble getting out of bed in the morning; they may be more withdrawn or want to stay indoors, have less energy, have difficulty concentrating, or feel as if their usual fun activities aren’t as much fun as they usually are.

Children may also exhibit a change in their eating habits beyond what is normal for them.  They may suddenly be disinterested in their favorite fall sports or participation in school plays, concerts, or competitive activities and may withdraw from their classmates or siblings.

If as a parent, you have some concerns, perhaps casually asking your child if he or she has a case of the “Winter Blues” is appropriate.

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that some of these signs may indicate a case of the “Winter Blues,” but may also indicate something more serious.  If that is the case, then it’s important to address that as well and in some cases, first.  

We’ve talked about some of these before in our posts about bullying.

So what can parents, teachers, and Lily and the Superheroes Club do to help someone suffering from SAD?

While it may be difficult to go outside during the darker, colder months, parents, teachers, siblings, and friends should encourage each other to participate in “fun winter activities” that involve regular exercise and not turning into “couch potatoes.”  Besides enjoying outdoor winter activities, one can also explore indoor activities. Many fun arts and crafts projects can be found on websites like Pinterest.  It’s an excellent time to visit museums or other places of interest that are indoors.

Maintaining a balanced diet and providing healthy meals help generate feelings of wellness to cope with the changing environments.  The fall and winter months are the perfect time of the year for family members to plan meals together and actually prepare and cook the meals together as well.  In addition, involving children in making desserts, especially baking cookies, can lift our spirits.  It might be surprising to discover that there is probably a master chef or master baker within most kids.

It’s important to communicate regularly with our children in order to give them the opportunity to discuss their feelings and the things that are going on in their lives. While it may not always be easy to do, it’s important to schedule one on one time with your child, where there are no distractions, and your child can openly discuss the challenges and the joys he or she may be experiencing.  

Planning a winter getaway either as a weekend trip or a quick one-day trip can be invigorating because it takes one away from the usual routine and provides everyone with a well-needed break.  Sometimes it’s not only the actual trip but also the planning that can help ward off the “Winter Blues.” Letting your kids pick places they want to go and do the research to make the visit happen can help them overcome sad or downcast feelings.

In extreme cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder, some doctors suggest light therapy.

As always, parents, teachers, and other adults should consult professionals, if they believe it is necessary and appropriate, when dealing with this disorder or any other disorder.

There are numerous ways to deal with the SAD feelings that come up this time of year. The most important thing to remember as a parent or teacher is to empathize with the child, student, or friend and provide them the opportunity to share their feelings in a safe and nurturing environment.  Only then, can they learn to overcome the “Winter Blues” and hopefully find their own inner “superhero.”