Photo: gilmanshin via Pixabay

For many families, the two months between Halloween and New Year’s Eve are the busiest of the year and they can be a roller coaster of parties, candy, school holidays, family visits, travel and even more candy. Add to this mix colder, darker weather and a lack of outdoor time and you’ve got a recipe for the holiday blues. Kids may love all this excitement at first, but it can quickly mount and lead to stress, sadness and anxiety (not to mention the occasional meltdown).

We know this time of year can be hard, so we’ve put together some resources to help you support your children during the holidays. Once school lets out, remember the 4 Rs to help shake the holiday break blues.

Keep Things Routine

Kids crave structure to their days—it gives them a sense of security and reduces worry. But with a jam-packed holiday event schedule and a longer-than-average school break, it can be hard to stick to a daily routine. While you can’t control everything, you can give kids an idea of what to expect one day at a time. Write up a daily schedule and stick it to the fridge—kids will appreciate knowing what’s coming up and what they need to do.

Make Sure They Get Some Rest

The first thing that usually suffers when routines change is a steady sleep schedule. The holiday season may see many children out late past their bedtimes and up early to travel. Unfortunately, fatigue is a common factor leading to lower moods in children and many parents know all too well that it leads to grumpiness. Make sure your child is getting the recommended amount of rest. For kids and tweens, that’s 9 to 12 hours a night. For teens, it’s 8 to 10 hours a night.

Have Realistic Expectations

The holidays see some families taking expensive vacations, receiving trendy gifts and visiting large, loving families. But this isn’t the case for every family and when kids see on social media or TV what they don’t have, they can be disappointed. Have open conversations about what the holidays will be like for your family and acknowledge if financial or family circumstances will result in a different experience than last year.

Recognize the Signs

There’s a difference between the holiday blues and depression. If you’re worried that your child is more than just upset or sad because of the holidays, learn to recognize depression. Keep an eye out for the following warning signs, especially if they last more than two weeks:

  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in sleeping patterns (too much or too little)
  • Feeling slowed down or “burned out”
  • Physical complaints (stomachaches, headaches)
  • Behavioral changes
    • Conflicts with family and friends
    • Decline in school performance
    • Inappropriate sexual activity
    • Use of alcohol or drugs

All of this can be pretty tough to think about and even harder to discuss. Signs of depression often hide deep within a child’s phone as they text friends or post to social media about their feelings. Bark monitors for these warnings signs and alerts you when your child needs your support. While it’s certainly no substitute for ongoing conversations with your child, it’s a “helping hand” when dealing with tougher topics.