How to help a "SAD" kid

It’s been SUPER cold lately. Literal record lows for any of our warmer climate readers…BRRRR. On top of that, there's all this crazy snow... SEND HELP!

(Seriously though, what the heck is this...???)


As adults, we can feel a change in ourselves when temperatures drop and most of the time brush it off as just the winter blues, but we aren’t the only ones. Although, our kids seem content with the constant winter outdoor activities (snowmen, snowballs, and sledding), it’s not always fun. After a while they too can feel that emotional chill creeping in. So how do you see it and what do you do about it? Well, that's what we are here for!


It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short. No, this isn’t a bad attempt at a pun by medical professionals, but a real problem that affects a lot of us from the end of fall to the beginning of spring. While much of the research on the topic doesn't include children, newer studies suggest that it might affect them a bit more than we once thought.

How To Tell

Symptoms:

  • Changes in mood: irritability and sadness

  • Increased crying

  • Fatigue or loss of energy

  • Increased sleep and difficulty waking in the morning

  • Changes in appetite

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Withdrawal from typically enjoyable activities

Sound like a typical fussy child? Well, SAD is specifically marked by some other factors:

  • Distinct changes in mood lasting for multiple weeks and correlates with a change in seasons.

  • Other changes in behavior related to school, attitude, appetite, sleeping patterns, and social functioning.

  • A number of symptoms at once that are not related to a particular situational stressor.

How To Treat

As with anything, SAD exists on a spectrum from mild to severe. Research suggests that geographical location, levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter linked to major depression and other mood disorders), and exposure to light can be directly correlated to who is affected and at what degree. Luckily, regardless of where you live, or what your child's serotonin levels or general length of light exposure are, there are some ways to combat SAD!

  • MOVE. MOVE. MOVE.

Exercise and activity help to increase serotonin levels in the brain which improves mood. Whether that means heading outside to tromp in the snow or staying inside and playing tag, a little bit of movement each day can help keep those blues away!


(25 Exercise Games and Indoor Activities to Get Kids Moving)


  • GET OUT OF THE HOUSE

Nobody likes being cooped up in the house, and during the winter, it's a quick way to feeling down. We are so fortunate to live in a community with SO much to do year round, and we encourage you take advantage of it!


(Family Fun Things To Do in Madison, Wisconsin)


  • CHOOSE SMART INDOOR ACTIVITIES

If you do need to stay in, try mentally stimulating or mood enhancing activities like board games, arts-and-crafts, or involve your kiddos in cooking up some healthy meals!


Try out these diabetes friendly recipes OR Try your hand at our games and quizzes


  • THE MORE, THE MERRIER

There is nothing more enjoyable to your kids than having company. Whether it's hanging out with friends or family, planning a group activity is a surefire way to boost their mood! Seeing a pattern here? ;)


  • BE PRODUCTIVE

Getting things done, while like pulling teeth sometimes, can feel particularly rewarding to your kiddo. Help them clean up their room, finish up some homework, or have them help you with your chores!

(Fun Laundry Games to Teach Your Kids)


  • HAVE SOME R&R TIME

Curing your child's winter blues doesn't have to mean go, go, go all the time. Taking time for some simple activities like listening to music, curling up with a good book, or even practicing mindfulness can make all the difference!


(3 Quick, Easy Meditation and Mindfulness Exercises for Kids)

If you suspect your child might be suffering from SAD, please give us a call and schedule an appointment. Often, changes can be benign and fixed with just the steps above, but there are times when they may indicate something more clinically significant. Our pediatricians are always here when you need them!


Click here to read more about our pediatricians!




Information on SAD provided by: NYU Langone Health Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

© 2023 by Associated Physicians, LLP

4410 Regent St. Madison, WI 53705

608-233-9746

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Instagram Icon
  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • White Yelp Icon
  • White Google Logo