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Supporting Kids' Mental Health in Winter

Supporting Kids' Mental Health in Winter

As the months get colder and the days get shorter, the change in seasons can take a toll on our mental health. For most kids, 2020 has been especially long and confusing. During an already tumultuous year, it is important to create a healthy routine going into winter to help support our kids’ mental health. Here are some tools and tips for your family to help manage the effect of the seasons:

  • Catch those rays: whether your child suffers from diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder or not, the darker, shorter days can still take a huge toll on wellbeing. It seems obvious, but taking advantage of sunlight when it is available is crucial. 
  • Catch those Zs: while your kids may want to stay curled up in bed every morning (especially when there’s no school commute!), establishing a strong sleep routine is a huge factor of good mental hygiene over the winter. We know the effects of too little sleep, but too much can be just as detrimental to mood and performance. Too much sleep can negatively impact mood, make your kids sluggish and decrease overall concentration and energy. Try and stick to the same bedtime and wake up every day, and try methods such as sleep meditation before bed to encourage quality rest.
  • Get moving: Winter is a time to keep those ever-important endorphins flowing! Breaking away from being hunched on the couch is a vital tool to keep our kids’ mental health on track. Here are a few ways we are getting active as a family this winter:
    • A regular yoga practice is an excellent way to cultivate the mind-body connection, breathe through tough emotions, and stay physically strong. 
    • Create a weekly movement schedule for more intentional exercise.
    • Set aside time for a family walk a few times a week.
    • Create a family meditation hour, where the practice is to relish in quiet time and relaxation.
  • In the kitchen: Keeping up a varied and nutrient-dense diet is an important way to keep your family well this winter. While sugary foods may be easy (and what your kids want!), they can cause spikes and dips in blood sugar and ultimately mood. Mealtimes can be great quality time with your kids, and getting the whole family interested in cooking can support a positive relationship between your child and food.
  • Talk it out: even with the most balanced winter schedule, it is still likely that your family will be affected by the change in seasons. The most important support for your kids’ mental health this winter will be having an open relationship so they can safely express their feelings. 
    • You could teach them how to keep a diary.
    • Create a magnet board on the fridge where they can easily show you how they’re feeling. 
    • Validate their feelings -- while hard, it is okay to be sad and upset.
    • Be communicative and honest, but optimistic
    • Teach them mindfulness practices
    • Create structure and routine, even when the days feel rudimentary

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