Look Out for Your Child’s Mental Health Over the Holidays

For many, the coming holidays are a time to get together with family and friends, feel festive and celebrate. But some people find themselves feeling a little more stressed or sad than usual this time of year—even children. About 1 in 20 children experiences a depressive episode every year and stress and depression can spike near the end of the year. Why now? It varies from person to person, but common reasons include children feeling overwhelmed or the holidays not living up to expectations.

What can make it even harder for parents is that the signs of depression aren’t always easy to spot—especially during the hectic holiday season. To learn more about depression warning signs and help protect your kids’ mental health this season, try the following:

  1. Learn how to spot the problem. Depression can take many forms in kids and teens, which is why it’s important to know the warning signs. Withdrawing from friends and activities, spells of intense irritability and changes in eating habits are all symptoms of depression. There are less obvious symptoms too, including lowered self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and difficulty concentrating.
  2. Be open with them. Children suffering from depression often feel like they’re the only ones who have ever felt that way. One way to help is to talk to your kids about how you sometimes feel upset or sad too. By “normalizing” their emotions, your child might feel more comfortable opening up and talking about what’s going on.
  3. Make time to focus on them. Schedules can get super busy during the holidays, meaning the whole family is racing through a packed social calendar and preparing for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas. As a result, you might not be spending as much time with your kids as you usually do. Try to make sure you plan some relaxed family moments so your kids get the attention and time they need to feel more secure and at peace. Game night or decorating the house for the holidays together provides ample opportunity for bonding. For families with parents who are divorced, try to balance time appropriately so that children feel supported by both parents.
  4. Finally, seek additional help if you need it. Sometimes your child might be dealing with a more serious issue. If the depressive symptoms show no signs of improving or are worsening, reach out to a mental health professional. Typically, if symptoms continue for a notable stretch of time—about one to two weeks—your child could need professional counseling.

Do you have a story of helping your loved ones navigate the holiday blues? Let us know how you made strides together to overcome those feelings in the comments below.

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