Encouraging Your Kids Through Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal depression is tough for anyone to deal with — but it’s especially tough on kids. That’s because kids usually don’t understand concepts like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or vitamin D intake, and the winter seems to drag on forever for them.
But the reality is that they will probably suffer from some amount of depression until winter ends.
That doesn’t mean you should lose all hope. Just like the rest of us, kids can mitigate their symptoms of seasonal depression with a good, healthy diet and a few engaging activities that keep their minds stimulated.
Here’s a short guide to encouraging your child through SAD.
Identifying Seasonal Affective Disorder
Nobody is quite certain of what causes SAD, but medical experts know that children who have a family history of SAD are more likely to suffer from the condition. Symptoms of SAD are usually quite easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for, and include:
- Constant tiredness
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty functioning
Of course, we all display these “symptoms” once in a while, but you should only start to consider seeking a SAD diagnosis if they seem to persist for two weeks. This diagnosis will get you the medical help you need and will help everyone in your family understand why your child may be “acting up” in the winter months.
Eat Nutritious Foods
Combating seasonal depression can be tricky. Hopefully, after you receive a diagnosis your doctor will give your child a treatment that replaces the vitamin D that they have not received through sunlight.
But, you must also ensure that you provide your child with a nutritious, well-balanced diet. That’s because poor nutrition, particularly at breakfast time, is amongst the biggest mistakes a schoolchild can make. Children who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to feel tired during the day and will have a hard time focusing at school. This will compound the problems they are facing while dealing with SAD.
If you aren’t sure of what a “nutritious” diet looks like, then you can always get in touch with a dietitian or nutritionist who specializes in child development. They will likely recommend you include more “brain foods” like eggs and kale and should avoid sugary food and drinks that will simply deepen your child’s depressive dip.
Fortified Foods and Supplements
Aside from eating a healthy, balanced diet, you may want to check out the vitamin D levels in your foods. That’s because, according to Yale doctors, most of us do not need to get our vitamin D from sunlight. In reality, most people can get all the vitamin D they need through fortified foods and nutritional supplements.
You can usually purchase vitamin D supplements from your local pharmacy or grocery store and should check the labels of foods like milk, juices, and cereals. That’s because most production companies will fortify their goods with vitamin D, and there is nothing wrong with getting your daily intake from these sources.
Connect With Activities
SAD makes it difficult for kids to find energy for activities and can leave them feeling dissociated and disinterested in family bonding. So, as a parent, you might need to raise the stakes and provide even more attention to your kid while they are battling SAD.
There are plenty of wintertime activities for you to choose from, but it’s worth bearing in mind that your child probably doesn’t want to feel cold or exhausted from exercising in the cold while they have SAD. For this reason, activities that center around a fire pit are perfect — your child stays warm, puts down their devices, and goes outside for at least an hour or so. You can make it into a more engaging activity by having them cook food over the pit and allowing them to help you tend to the fire.
Get Professional Help
The reality is that SAD isn’t something that most parents can deal with on their own. As much as you want to help your child, you are not a medical expert and might end up doing more harm than good if you don’t seek expert advice.
Fortunately, SAD is a medically-recognized condition and is amongst the common mental health issues that children face. This means that medical professionals have seen the condition before, and are well equipped to help you handle a case of SAD. This gives you confidence that your approach is backed by research, and that you’re doing all you can to help your child through a difficult time.
In the depths of winter, seasonal affective disorder can feel overwhelming. But, by taking a proactive, evidence-based approach to SAD, you can help your child mitigate their symptoms. In particular, you should review their diet to see if sugary foods are compounding the issue, and should seek medical advice from doctors who are well equipped to help your kid overcome the challenges they face during the winter.
About the Author
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in education, mental health, family lifestyle and online safety. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. You can follow her on Twitter.