The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. However, it is not always true, for kids or adults. Your kids may not spend the holiday being in all smiles and having fun. Sometimes the signals that they are struggling with holiday depression might not be noticed.

We think of children in blended families and foster homes as being at risk, but those in traditional nuclear households may experience holiday depression as well. As a parent, we need to recognize the telltale signs that our children are feeling sad and depressed and find ways to help them.

What Causes Holiday Depression in Children?

Just like in adults, children get depressed during the holidays. Depression is a medical condition that can affect how your child connects with friends and family or even their ability to enjoy the normal day to day activities. The causes of childhood depression have not yet been established, but it has been thought to be caused by a combination of many factors such as family history, genetic vulnerability, the environment, health, as well as events in their lives.

Studies indicate that depression in children is more prevalent in families that have had some disruption such as a divorce or loss of family member than in other types of families. The percentage of children coming from disrupted families that struggle with depression is estimated to be at 89%. Read on to find out how you can recognize that your child is feeling depressed on holidays.

Signs that Your Child is Depressed during the Holidays

  1. Your child is feeling sad, hopeless, helpless or withdrawn

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone. If your child is normally a happy and social kid but has withdrawn from friends and family and usually looks sad, he might be suffering from depression. Sometimes this sadness is referred to as holiday depression or holiday blues because it often dissipates after the holidays are over. When these negative feelings do not go away after the holidays, you should consult a health care provider.

  1. Changes in sleeping patterns

A change in your child’s sleeping habits can be among the first symptoms of depression. According to Prashant Gajwani, MD, an associate professor in the University of Texas Medical School, there is a close relationship between sleep and depression. He says that the irregularity of sleep might be due to the way depression affects the brain and hence the sleep-wake cycle.

  1. Your child is not taking pleasure in activities they usually like

Your kid has always been an active one but has suddenly stopped being happy doing things they previously loved. For instance, if you have recently remarried after getting a divorce from a traditional nuclear family, your biological child might not find pleasure doing things like gift wrapping, baking cookies or building snowmen as that might remind them of Christmas holidays past.

  1. A change in appetite

A child who normally has a healthy appetite might lose it suddenly and vice versa. Your kid usually loves your Christmas cookie, but now no longer wants to eat them or doesn’t want to eat his favorite foods. This change in appetite can lead to fluctuations in weight. According to research, loss of appetite and loss of weight happens more often in depressed kids than the increase in appetite and weight gain. Loss of appetite and loss of weight can be used as an indicator of depression in children and adolescents.

  1. Feeling fatigue or decreased energy

Fatigue in children during the holidays can be caused by lack of sleep, emotional stress, having to work hard to finish assignments during the Christmas break or depression. If you observe a reduction in energy, listlessness or lack of zeal for activities they usually like doing, your child might be suffering from depression.

  1. Your child is irritable, having vocal outbursts or crying

This sign often goes unnoticed many times as parents often mistake irritability and anger for disrespect. Children who get vocal outbursts during the holidays might also have it misinterpreted as being spoilt. If your child is exhibiting any of these behaviors, they might be suffering from depression.

How You Can be of Help to Your Child with Holiday Depression

Depression in children can have adverse effects and may affect various aspects of your her life. Although it is uncommon for children below 12 years to attempt suicide, it is not that rare.

Depression in older children might lead to them developing bad behaviors such becoming violent, abusing drugs and alcohol. It is paramount that you get your child help as soon as you recognize the signs of depression. You could try helping by talking and understanding any problems that might be bothering your child. Be more of a listener than a talker and encourage your kid to open up.

However, if your child has exhibited signs of depression for more than two weeks and is affecting their social or school life, it is time to consult a mental health professional specialized in childhood depression.

The holidays should be a time that is filled with joy, and every kid should be in a position to partake in the celebrations. Spot the signals that your child might be struggling with holiday depression early to get your child help as soon as possible. Helping them through this might be the best gift you can give them at this time.

Take time to spend together as a family during this season can also be helpful. Every child should get an opportunity to spend the holidays happily. Enjoy a joyful holiday!

Subscribe for DrGreene’s Newsletter

Sonia Bell contributor