Navigating the Post Holiday Blues with Children
Author: Jay Wilson, MSW, LCSWA- Four Seasons Child & Adolescent Grief Coordinator
The Joy of the Holiday Season
The holidays can be an exciting time. For many people, they bring a change of routine and a collective, concerted effort for positivity. The news cycle of seemingly constant doom and gloom is interrupted by stories of hope, heroism, and charity. People dress differently, bonuses are handed out, and parties break up the work and school day. Children get special treats in school, teachers are more relaxed, and everyone is talking about what they will do with their time off. The city’s streets are decorated, and some areas of our lives feel lighter. We get to see family and friends, providing connection with others. All of these things give us a break from the mundane routine of life and can distract us from our stress and frustrations with everyday life.
The end of the holiday season is a sudden jolt back into reality and can lead to depressive symptoms. We start to release all of the pent-up emotions we’ve been hiding from our house guests. We have to go back to work and school, and soon all of the goodwill that was being passed around is replaced with the news cycle drone of loss and fear. The street decorations get slowly taken away, no one is looking to give us gifts, and the parties are over. There seems to be nothing to look forward to anymore (the post-holiday blues). With the return to normal, our stresses and frustrations can feel overwhelming and take over our thoughts. For children who are still developing and learning to manage their emotions, getting back into a routine while navigating these feelings and thoughts can be extra difficult.
How Can I Help?
It is important for youth to be reminded that they are in control of what they consume. Caregivers should be an example of taking breaks from news and forms of entertainment that harm our mental peace by causing us to worry about things that are out of our control. You can help teenagers look forward to healthy things rather than their thoughts lingering on their post-holiday blues. Consistent family outings or game nights can be helpful. Include breaks and rest in your routine to allow children’s minds and bodies to relax and reset. Even if these breaks are not as extensive as a holiday break, they should be worked into a regular rhythm for family members. Keeping a line of communication open with young people to express their emotions or giving them something like a journal that comes along with a commitment that the journal’s privacy will be respected can help children not stuff or hold onto negative emotions. If letting emotions go safely is a natural part of a child’s life, then that healthy coping routine will be no different after the holidays.
Encouraging your child not to overindulge in all the holiday goodies or offering fun and healthy alternatives can help with the post-holiday emotional crash. Eating and sleeping well can not be overstated for its link to emotional well-being. If our bodies don’t feel well, our minds will follow, and vice versa. What is unique about the holidays can cause us to feel sad after the holidays are over, but that does not have to be the case. We can bring the spirit of the holidays, the goodwill, the positive interactions, the happy stories, and so on into our post-holiday routine.