The glimmer and glow of the holiday season has seemingly come to an end. The lights and decorations go back in their boxes, the tree is put away (or finds its new purpose as mulch), and the joy of opening presents will need to wait until the next birthday or holiday event. Although most of us are just fine with the holiday season ending and look forward to going back to the usual, some of us, especially kiddos, struggle with the shift.
It’s the Blues, Brother
The holiday season, at least in my household, kicks off in October and it doesn’t stop until the first of January. That is three whole months of festivities, decoration changes, and gatherings jammed into the weekly routine. Think of the adrenaline (and sugar) rush that’s happening from Halloween through New Year.
And when there’s a rush, emotions are heightened and those can be difficult to regulate, especially when the holidays are over and we are expected to get back into a daily routine. These post-holiday blues can be a mixed bag of sensations that can affect sleep patterns, energy levels, and the ability to concentrate to tasks/activities, not just for you but also for your kids.
How can you tell if your kid has the case of the blues?
- Physical: fatigue, poor appetite, tummy troubles, sleep issues
- Emotional: irritability, crying, sadness, anxiousness
- Behavioral: lashing out, avoidance, difficulties focusing
The good news is that these feelings are temporary and will fade as your child gets re-acquainted with their routine.
Getting Out of the Funk
Children are sensitive to change, so if you have a long period of where-to-gos and what-to-dos, it’s understandable how it can be tough for them to get back to a basic schedule. It’s worth mentioning that not all children get down and out after the holidays (my son was ready to get back to school after winter break to see his classmates); but for the few that do, here’s what you can do.
Reminisce a Bit – We don’t have family nearby, so it’s always a treat to spend time with them. Our kids get a kick playing with their cousins and getting extra snuggles from their grandparents and relatives. That makes it even more difficult to get back on track. Help your child recall their memories through talks, journaling, or even making a scrapbook of the holidays. You can even schedule time to talk to family members via video chat. Not only are their feelings acknowledged, but also have something to look forward to at the next family gathering.
Take it Easy – It’s okay to take a step back and just not do anything to catch your breath. That also applies to your child. The holidays can be overstimulating for some so a moment of nothingness can be a welcomed opportunity for them to recharge. Create a lazy morning, stay in pajamas, etc. Ease into the routine by adding one thing at a time.
The New and Improved Routine – The doldrums of returning to a boring routine can be a letdown. The new year can ring in a new opportunity to change the former schedule into something to look forward to. Keep the basics of their sleep/eating/school routines intact, but once that’s re-established, help them adjust and tweak it to accommodate what’s meaningful to them. For example, perhaps dropping that piano class they don’t enjoy and enrolling them into a youth sports league their friends are in. They may opt to add quiet time in their day where they won’t be bothered by their siblings. Or, you can schedule a new weekly event, like making dinner together or a movie night.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors – Yes, we know it’s cold outside, but being around nature is a quick and easy way to boost mood, help with sleep, and reset. Take a stroll, get some fresh air, and experience surroundings, even for just 5-10 minutes. For more reasons for your kid to go play outside, read our previous post.
Making Moves – If the weather has you staying indoors, encourage movement of some kind. It promotes the production of those feel-good endorphins that help with emotional regulation and attention.
New Year, Clean Slate – They don’t say “Out with the old and in with the new” for nothing. With new stuff received from the holidays, the house may seem more crowded than usual. One way for your child to get back to neutral is to give their room and play spaces a little makeover. Get rid of what they no longer fit into or play with, donating to other kids who may need them. Let them take the lead on what they want their updated space to be.
Leave the Door Open – Coming down from the high of the holidays can be confusing for our kids. Allow yourself to be available and present as they process their emotions. This can be anything from a snuggle to talking about their fears or sadness, to maybe just a passing hug or holding hands.
Remember that feelings are like the weather, they come and they go. If you notice that you or your children are prone to the post-holiday blues, plan ahead to make the transition easier.
If you observe that these feelings hang around a bit longer than usual, don’t be afraid to talk to your pediatrician.