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Written by Dr. Lisa Strohman
on December 3, 2020

We are all familiar with the “holiday blues” that plague many of us during this festive season. As the weather cools, we are inundated with new family stressors that bring added responsibilities. From gift purchasing to extra cooking (and eating) to housing out-of-town guests, the holidays can be overwhelming for even the most thoroughly prepared hosts.

Add in the guest who wouldn’t leave—the COVID-19 virus—and a tumultuous election, and you have a recipe for a stressful and potentially volatile holiday season. And since children feel many of the same stressors as adults, as they are extremely perceptive about what adults are thinking and feeling, it is more important than ever that we adults slow down and provide meaning to the holiday season.

One of the biggest stress inducers during this time of year for both adults and children is feeling isolated or alone. Arguably this is even more pronounced this season because of the social distancing restrictions and the lack of travel availability. Kids feel this sense of isolation also as they encounter the challenges of distance learning and navigate their personal social worlds from afar. Because children often cannot process these feelings of separation and loneliness, parents should be especially alert for certain warning signs that their kids are becoming overwhelmed by these stressors and are falling into a depression.

Some signs of depression are:

  • Low affect or lack of emotion that is not typical
    Being “flat” or avoiding others can be a clear sign to others of an emotional disconnect that is happening
  • Overly emotional when the situation does not warrant it
    Irritability, frustration, and/or fits of anger over seemingly small setbacks are fairly typical this time of year
  • Overly tired and sleeping/lack of energy
    Having difficulty getting out of bed, feeling tired or lost, or not wanting to be around loved ones can be key signs
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
    Losing your concentration, forgetting what you had to get at the store, or even not being able to focus on an article can all be key signs

If you are concerned about your child and fear that their holiday blues are developing beyond temporary feelings of seasonal depression, please use the following resources:

Want to dive further into this topic? Watch the Student Wellness Series: Holiday Blues webinar to learn more about the mental health struggles students face during the holidays. 

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