A marathon of holidays, beginning with Halloween and ending with New Year's, means a flurry of festivities, leisure time, late nights, and loads of sweets. But what goes up must come down, and after having lots of fun and leisure time with family, kids may feel sad returning to their pre-holiday life. The decrease in celebrations and excitement can affect kids' moods, causing disappointment and even more serious melancholy feelings. Here are seven ways to help kids cope with symptoms of the post-holiday blues or avoid them altogether.
Know the Signs
Kids tend to show their feelings through their actions, rather than explain them with words. Look for commons signs of the blues such as lack of appetite, trouble sleeping, moodiness, an inability to control impulses, skipping activities that normally interest them, apathy, and tantrums. Kids may go through phases where they feel really sad but then bounce back. "If it lasts much longer than three weeks to a month, you want to keep an eye on it and talk to your pediatrician," says Jennifer Kolari, child and family therapist and author of Connected Parenting. By knowing what to look for, parents can be better prepared to address concerns and support kids having any difficulties.
Listen to Your Kids
The more we can validate our kids' feelings and experiences, the more likely they will feel supported. "As parents, we have a hard time with our children's sadness," Kolari explains. "We tend to try to talk our kids out of their feelings and that just makes them more blue, so in our attempt to fix it we sometimes make it worse." Instead, listen to your kids and empathize. "You want to mirror them a bit and say, 'You know, it's hard. It's hard to go from being free and seeing Mommy and Daddy every day and to getting up early and having school and homework.'" Show that you understand your kids' disappointment but that you have confidence that they'll get through it. By doing this, you demonstrate that you trust them, which ultimately teaches them to trust themselves.
Keep the Connection
Creating fun activities to do together after the holidays will keep the family close and connected. Spend time together making an art project or a scrapbook of photographs that showcases your memories and experiences. Even simple playing and having hands-on fun with your kids can strengthen the bonds. Kolari describes surprising her daughter with a meal underneath the dining room table one day. "She couldn't believe how much fun that was."
Spending time together in nature can also be a mood lifter. "We tend to stay inside a lot over the winter, which can contribute to the blues," says Christine Carter, Ph.D., a happiness expert at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center and the author of Raising Happiness. "Even looking out a window or just being in daylight can improve your mood." Bundle up and go for a walk together or engage in winter sports. A new year brings a host of new opportunities, so make room for family activities and continue the spirit of togetherness.