Looking out of my front room windows, it’s currently dreary outside and even though it hasn’t been as frigid as our northern neighbors generally tend experience during this time of the year, it’s still dreary. Depressing, actually.
The lack of sunshine is obvious and for many of us, we feel the effects of it.
Speaking first hand as a girl that grew up in the Sunshine State, it hits me each year, right on schedule, after the holidays are over and as the ‘blah’ month of January emerges, so does the Seasonal Affective Disorder along with it. However, it’s not just adults that feel it. Kids also feel it. I mean, how could they not? As adults, though, do we even recognize Seasonal Affective Disorder in our children, or are we quick to just diagnose it as something else?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often referred to as “winter depression” –a subtype of a depression that accompanies a season, the most common form occurring in the winter months. Daylight Savings, occurring in November, has been blamed for the onset of the SAD “season.” Our days are shorter, which means less light and more darkness, and when the sun is our biggest source of Vitamin D, it can take its toll on even the youngest bodies.
Oftentimes parents will dismiss their children’s SAD symptoms and label them as just a “typical, hormonal teen.” And while younger children aren’t immune to Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s much more common in teenagers and young adults. These kids will often feel more irritable, have trouble concentrating, seem more tired, have a change in their school performance, or even become disinterested in something that they were most recently enjoying.
Although there is no perfect way to treat SAD, there are definite ways to lessen the symptoms enough to get us all to the months where the birds are chirping, the skies are clearing, and the sun is warmer.
Light Therapy (which is my personal favorite and my go-to each winter), has been known to do wonders for both adults and kids. There are medical facilities that can perform light therapy on an individual but most people, myself included, do very well by just purchasing a small, portable box and keeping it someplace that you frequent each day, such as a desk, table, or nightstand. For me, I keep it on my desk. In fact, my little box of portable sunshine is on as I write this and again, it’s a necessity in my world during the colder months. What’s nice is that I can set a timer for fifteen, thirty, or forty-five minutes of low, medium, or high “fake sunlight” to shine in my direction. Does it work? Yes!
I have one teenager, in particular, that needs to feel the light on her face every once in a while, as well. She doesn’t use it as frequently as I do but it simply gives her that little boost that she feels she needs every once in awhile. With light therapy, the goal is to mimic the sun and extra daylight that we often need to feel during the height of winter months; light therapy is safe and has little side effects. Most people can get by with just the “basic” light therapy but other forms are certainly available.
Exercise of any kind is a surefire way to avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder. Allowing kids to remain active, even during the colder and more dreary months, can be a great solution. Indoor basketball, swimming, yoga classes, spin classes…all of these allow for the boost of serotonin, endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals in all of us, kids, included.
While the research isn’t complete on how SAD completely affects children, common sense will undoubtedly lead us to believe that kids and teenagers need the same, if not more, of what energizes us as adults. The façade may be that kids and teens have an abundance amount of stamina and energy but what’s happening on the inside is what ultimately matters when it comes to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Discerning basic moods versus the real SAD symptoms in your children’s disposition during the dark, winter months is something to become more sensitive to as parents.