Many adults think of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as something that couldn’t possibly impact children. After all, kids get to enjoy snow days while their parents shovel out and go to work. They also enjoy lengthy holiday breaks followed by several three-day weekends when their folks still must report to the office.
But SAD does impact children, and like many youth disorders, the condition often goes undiagnosed due to adult biases. SAD can cause feelings of loneliness, loss of interest in school and social activities, and can develop into life-threatening depression if left untreated. What makes this disorder even trickier is the fact that it can happen all throughout the year, not just in the winter.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD refers to a type of depression that is known for taking place during the Winter months, but surprisingly enough, can even be prevalent during the warmer seasons as well. Like other depressive disorders, SAD symptoms include loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, low energy levels coupled with difficulty sleeping, feelings of worthlessness and in severe cases, suicidal ideation.
How SAD Impacts Kids
Because children often lack the vocabulary to pinpoint what’s wrong, parents and caregivers can determine if a child may suffer from SAD by watching for symptoms. Seek help if your child experiences sadness or irritability lasting more than two weeks, sleeping much more than usual, changes in appetite, especially craving more carbs than usual, and spending less time with other family members and friends.
Ideas for Helping Kids Cope
SAD does respond well to treatment in many cases, so if you suspect your child may have the disorder, consult with your family physician or a qualified therapist. Medications can help alleviate severe cases, but natural treatments often prove effective for treating many cases of SAD in kids.
Many researchers believe that exposure to natural light can cure or alleviate most cases of SAD. Concerned parents can find therapy lights for sale with many online retailers, often at price points lower than $50.
Got a sunroom or even a screened-in porch? Consider winterizing it so that the room can double as a playroom during the winter months. Many sunrooms, especially those with high quality glass warm naturally through the greenhouse effect and the room creates a feeling of playing outdoors while safe from frigid temps.
Whenever the weather remains relatively calm, get the kids out and moving. Exercise helps alleviate depression and playing outdoors bathes children in natural light (and adds a vitamin D boost to boot). Go ahead and go sledding and say yes when Anna asks if you want to build a snowman.
Cognitive behavioral therapy proves an effective treatment for many children suffering from SAD. While many parents hesitate, wanting to wait and see whether their child will snap out of it, early intervention provides the greatest opportunity to head off problems before they increase in severity. Often, the act of seeking help itself reassures a depressed child that they are still very much loved and valued.
Although competing evidence exists, some research indicates that vitamin D may alleviate some symptoms of SAD. As vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning it remain in the body longer, many children’s vitamin supplements contain adequate amounts. So, if Junior isn’t already taking a special vitamin supplement designed for kids, winter may provide the best opportunity to start.
Finally, try to bring your child out of their shell as often as possible by engaging them in things they used to love. Keep up the weekly play date even if your little one mopes about not wanting to go. Is your little girl a wanna-be paleontologist? Spend Saturday at the local science center where she can gaze in wonder at a T-Rex skeleton.
Making the Sun Come Out for Your Child
Above all, remind your precious little suffering from SAD that they nevertheless still have all your love. Depression, even seasonal depression, whispers to kids affected by the disorder that they’ve somehow done something wrong or have become unlovable. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, and your caring and early intervention will put the spring back in your child’s step in no time.
Kacey Bradley is the lifestyle and travel blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. Along with writing for her blog, she frequently writes for sites like US Travel News, Thought Catalog, Style Me Pretty, Tripping.com and more! Follow Kacey on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to keep up with her travels and inspiring posts!
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