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1/23/22blog post

weathering the "winter blues" with kids

ways to overcome seasonal wellness for your child and your family

It’s cold and dreary outside. You’re feeling more irritable and tired than usual. Your children are being rambunctious and displaying more behavioral health issues than ever before. Why do these things always seem to always happen around this time of year?  

The “winter blues,” while not an official, clinical diagnosis is a phenomenon affecting thousands of people’s mental health and moods.  

According to Mental Health America National:  

  • In a given year, about 5 percent of the U.S. population experiences seasonal depression.  

  • Four out of five people who have seasonal depression are women. 

  • The main age of onset of seasonal depression is between 20 and 30 years of age, however symptoms can appear earlier. 

That means a lot of parents, especially moms, are affected by the Winter Blues and that in turn affects children. Dayton Children’s community behavioral health experts and On Our Sleeves administrators, Sue Fralick and Emily Weitz, have more information on how this seasonal circumstance affects both parents and children and how you can control your mood to create a happy and healthy home as winter continues.  

What is causing the winter blues?  

Around this time of year, between December and March, there is less sunlight. This is especially true for those living further from the equator. On top of that, it’s much colder than usual outside making it uncomfortable to get out and about. A lack of sunlight and exercise can seriously affect a person’s mood. You wouldn’t believe how powerful sunlight is for a body! Just like plants need sunlight to survive, humans need the sun to produce balancing, feel-good chemicals in the body.  

How do the winter blues affect my children?  

Children are very observant and responsive creatures. They generally react and respond to the atmosphere that they’re in, which is usually in the house with their families. This is especially true for babies. So, if you’re suffering from the winter blues, chances are your low mood will not spark many smiles on your face. The suppression of your emotions can cloak your child from understanding and feeling their own emotions, impacting their growth and development.  

Now this could sound very overwhelming and become a heavy burden for parents already tasked with so much of their child’s care. We know it sounds like a lot! 

 As a mom of young children, Emily can understand. She says for her, it’s easier to break down these huge expectations into small steps. Instead of deciding to spend time outside and making her children exercise, she will decide to take a short walk around the block or to the mailbox with her children. At times, she’ll find that being outdoors is not as bad as she thought, and as she and her children have fun, they find themselves staying outside in the fresh air and sun for a while. Now the family has had some sunlight, some exercise and some smiles.  

Just know that you’re doing the best you can for that time and try taking small steps to improve. If you notice the sun is out, open the blinds or a window. If there’s snow outside, take some time to go outside and play or sled. Make a trip to the mailbox a fun one for the family. Whatever small actions you can do, can lead to more smiles and more sunshine to beat the winter blues.  

What can I do about the winter blues?  

After you’ve tried small steps to get more direct sunlight and fresh air, the next best thing you can do is start the conversation. Talking about what you're experiencing with friends and family may help you- and others- realize that you’re not alone. Breaking the stigma around your mental health can leave you free to create partnerships with others and may help you get suggestions for coping.

You can also try these activities to make your own sunshine and bring more smiles

  • Open your  blinds to get direct sunlight whenever you can

  • Crack the windows open to let in the some fresh air

  • Call a friend to talk 

  • Get physical with your activities like taking a walk or playing with your kids at the park

  • Boost your mood with foods high in Vitamin D

  • Check something off your bucket list

  • Do a hobby that brings you joy

  • Listen to a new mood boosting playlist, bonus points for getting physical if you dance a bit!

  • Help others by volunteering or simply helping a friend or family member

  • Watch a funny show or movie to get the smiles and laughs going. 

Share with us on social media how you beat the winter blues by tagging @daytonchildrens

It’s important to note that while the winter blues are real and can impact your mental health, this is not a clinical diagnosis. It can raise thoughts or questions of if you have depression. According to our clinical experts, depression lasts for a period of time, while sadness is a feeling that comes and goes. If you feel you may have a more serious issue, reach out to your physician or a licensed mental health therapist. Find more information here.  

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