My kids and I love living in the Northeast. We love snow at Christmas, and it gets nice and warm during the summer — but you can still (usually) be comfortable outside. I’ve grown up here, and so have they. It feels like home in every way.
But there’s one big problem: when it starts getting cold and dark out at 4:00 pm after Daylight Savings Time (November 6 this year, just FYI), we all struggle with the seasonal blues. I experienced it as a child, and I had no idea what it was. I had less energy and couldn’t socialize as much as usual because I got so moody.
While I do love a good excuse to go to bed as early as I want and wear nothing but sweaters and sweats, seasonal affective disorder is a very real thing in my family. Now that I know more about it and how to curb it, here’s what I’ve done for my teens to help them get through the shorter days of winter:
I buy Vitamin D capsules at the store and remind my kids to take them daily. I’ve been doing this for over three years after a friend told me it improved her seasonal depression, and I can’t believe the difference. You can have your Vitamin D levels checked by your doctor and they can give you a recommended daily dosage.
I also make sure to look for foods rich in vitamin D that my kids like while grocery shopping; good sources are tuna fish, eggs, milk, and yogurt.
Even though it’s tough when it’s cold and dark, we all try to exercise. Moving my body makes me feel better. I’ve talked to my kids about the importance and benefits of exercise for our minds and health since they were young. My older son goes to the gym with me, but my daughter prefers to exercise at home. My youngest son would rather chop wood and build things outside, and that does the trick for him.
I also encourage us to take family walks even though a lot of the time they don’t want to go. A short ten-minute walk in crisp winter air is revitalizing and we all feel energized after. And it gives me a chance to connect with my teens who often retreat to their rooms after school.
I can’t believe how much this helps all of us. It’s so easy to hibernate in the cold months, but every time I get myself to make plans, I always feel so much better and I’m so glad afterward. It doesn’t have to be anything grand either. Sometimes we go for a drive to get hot chocolates, ask a family member to come over to dinner, or we plan a special movie night together. Having a little something to look forward to is a great mood booster.
Get them outside
This can be a tough one, especially with teens. They aren’t excited about playing in the snow or snowshoeing like they were when they were little. Even a few minutes always helps, especially on a sunny day. This is the time of year I remind them how much better they will feel if they get some fresh air. Sometimes we bundle up and lie on the deck in the sun, but there are times I tell them they have to come outside and help me remove snow or salt the driveway. Of course, they don’t love doing that, but you can tell it does breathe a little life into them when they are done.
Try to stay positive
I never want to dismiss how hard these months can be, and I let my kids rest and relax during this time of year. At the same time, I try hard not to go down a rabbit hole and complain about how much the short days suck. If they vent about how they are feeling, I listen, I’m supportive, and I ask what I can do to help. I try to stay positive without dismissing their feelings (such a fine line) because I know that if I act like they are being too dramatic, they are going to feel worse. The shorter days can be rough on a lot of people’s mental health. As a mom of three teens struggling with seasonal blues, these things have helped a lot.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.