With cold and gloomy weather upon us, it’s no wonder that 5% of the U.S. population experiences seasonal sadness, also known as “the winter blues.”
Seasonal sadness can affect children as well as adults. If you’ve noticed this time of year has your child a little down in the dumps, here are some ideas for physical and social-emotional activities to support them.
Get outside, even if it’s cold
Just like plants need sunlight to survive, humans need sunlight to produce vitamin D and other feel-good chemicals in the body. In fact, low levels of vitamin D have been found in people with seasonal affective disorder, or S.A.D. While the link between exposure to natural sunlight and seasonal sadness is not yet well-studied, some researchers believe that exposure to natural light could help boost one’s mood and reduce insomnia.
What’s more, when kids are outside, they move their bodies! Take them on a winter walk, go sledding or skiing, or encourage them to build a snowman – all of these types of exercise can help boost endorphins while also basking them in natural light.
If it’s still too cold to walk outside, you can try this at-home Movement and Calm Breaks activity to get your child’s limbs moving and their blood pumping. Anything to get them active, which can boost their mood!
Talk about feelings
It’s important to give children space to process their emotions in a healthy way. Ask your child about how they’re feeling, and keep questions open-ended to give them the opportunity to reflect.
This activity, called The Weather Inside, can get the conversation started by asking kids to describe their different emotions and compare them to weather patterns, such as happiness as the sun or sadness as a snowstorm. In this way, they will learn that just like the weather, emotions will eventually pass. Similarly, this Natural Emotions activity compares emotions to the different parts of nature, allowing kids to better understand how they are feeling.
By helping your child work through their emotions, you send them the message that you are someone they can come to when they’re feeling down or need support.
Continue socializing and routines
Winter can be especially hard because routines are broken and there is less daily structure. Winter break and snow days can mean that kids can’t go to school and see their teacher and friends, which can be hard for some children.
To maintain a routine, encourage them to use a printable organizer to write a list of their winter goals, including activities they can do with friends. Then, perhaps invite some friends over for a fun winter tea party with cookies and cocoa. By helping your child make plans and socialize, you can pull them out of their shell and make the gloomy winter a little brighter.