Snowball or hailstone on a white background

Supporting Your Child Through The Winter Blues

Dear Anabelle,

My son always has a tough time during the winter months. School is harder, days are darker, clothes are more cumbersome. I’m noticing his thoughts about himself can be pretty negative. Any ideas about promoting positive self talk and getting through this time of year?

Thank you for this question! This is an important topic, and I am happy to be answering it.

Winter is difficult for me as well. Over the years I have learned interventions and tools that work, so that I can feel like I can “get through” winter. The changes in winter can mean entirely different routines, environments, and supports.

I do have some self talk ideas, as well as some other ideas to lessen negativity, that have helped me, many of which I do all year around:

Writing down or drawing out the good events and moments that happen. These can be big things, little things, odd things, and can be written in a notebook, written on a small piece of paper then put in a container, or on a dry erase board. These notes can often be used proactively to keep from spiraling into a very frustrating place, by reading or looking at them.

Writing positive sayings and mantras on sticky notes around the house is good for the whole family. Even if no one takes it earnestly, still seeing and/or reading a positive message everyday does sink in. Some of my favorites are:

“Be who you are.”
“You are strong, and brave. Do not forget that.”
“Cherish what makes you you.” ~ Karen Salmansohn
“You cannot be both awesome and negative. Choose one.” ~ Karen Salmansohn
“If someone doesn’t understand you or you do not understand them, it is okay. Miscommunications happen. Take a pause, and try again later.”
“We all have different styles of communication, and that is okay. Translation is the part that can take time and patience. I will show others patience, because that is what I would like them to show me.”

Drawing, writing, talking, typing, or any kind of expression of feelings such as anger, frustration, worry, sadness, and tension is important, everyday. This could be in a notebook, on a giant canvas, with crayons, on an computer, electronic communication devices, alone, with family, or however is most comfortable for your son. For me, this is a hard activity for me to kickstart, but it is EXTREMLY helpful. So, I often set a short timer, for about 5-10 minutes, and I make a rule that I have to be looking at that surface for that time, and whatever comes out, comes out. If nothing does, I try again later. If something does, I usually end up going WAY past the 10 minute mark, and it always turns out enjoyable and/or relieving.

Planning fun [brief] indoor exercising activities throughout the day, multiple times a day. It really helps with keeping a more positive view in life. Movement and exercise everyday is important for both the body and mind. And in winter, going outdoors is more of a difficult task, so overall it can be easy to become less active during that time. Even as an adult, I have many fun options around our home so that movement and exercise is less work and more fun. Hopping from one room to another, doing a few jumping jacks, crawling/climbing up a set of stairs, playing a “Simon says” game with family or friend(s), spinning in circles, putting on a song to dance to, and jumping on a mini trampoline are some ideas of brief, fun ways to get physical movement. It can be as short as 30 seconds at a time, multiple times a day.

Making goals. Setting goals with rewards are wonderful, especially in the winter months! Trying to set goals without buying anything is always best. I love rewards that involve someone helping me with something I wouldn’t or couldn’t normally do alone. Let’s say I have a goal of going to check out a new grocery store. Before I do so, I might set a goal with a family member or friend, that if I go to the new store, they will play my favorite Kinect video game with me for X amount of time, or accompany me to the aquarium.

Winter is so full of change and challenges. Every little bit of positive self talk, reinforcement, and physical activity helps. I can happily say that thanks to of all of the above actions and ideas, and my family, I have had my most pleasant winter in a very long time. My meltdowns have lessened, I have been more effective with communication and I get out of bed every single day. Support, planning and positive attitudes truly go a long way.