Your 12-year-old loves school and is doing well. He/she is active in band, class president and socially active with friends. However, around December, you notice a change. At first you dismiss it is just being down in the dumps. You pour on the love and concern, waiting a few days you notice things getting worse, not better. Your child no longer gets together with friends and test scores are slipping. Come to think about it, you remember the same thing occurring last year about the same time. There’s a pattern to the “blues” your child is experiencing. Maybe it’s time to seek professional help.
You find a doctor that diagnoses Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Now what? You don’t want this to become yet another power struggle with your child, you’re already battling over other issues. But, if the SAD is treated, your child could feel more like themselves once again.
“Recognizing it giving it a name, and outlining practical solutions will generally be appreciated. By setting an example in this way, you are instilling in you child the capacity to take charge of the problem and overcome it – a skill that will be critical in the years to come. “
Dealing with SAD
In his bookWinter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and How to Overcome It , Dr Norman E. Rosenthal states that you must approach this “emphatically and tactfully”. “Try showing how nature, people and animals deal with the changes of seasons. – Once the presence of SAD is accepted, destigmatized, and regarded as a manageable fact of life, and once the child or adolescent is recruited as a collaborator in the treatment process rather than the object of it, all specific suggestions become much easier to implement.”
Dealing with SAD will take organization on you and your child’s part. Dr Rosenthal has found that what works for adults works with kids:
- Help your child wake up in the morning (i.e. a light next to the bed with a timer, a dawn simulator, a radio alarm clock).
- Encourage your child to wake up on their own as much as possible.
- Make sure they get enough light whether it be natural or from a light therapy device.
Dr Rosenthal found that children need shorter treatment times with light treatment than adults. A good time to try their light therapy treatments is while they are getting up and dressing, or put it on during a TV show. Older children could have their light time while doing homework or reading.
Angela Smyth in her book Seasonal Affective Disorder: Who Gets It, What Causes It, How to Cure It suggests “Try to incorporate light therapy into a child’s life without too much fuss. Children hate to be different.”
Help your child learn how to manage stress. Just like adults, children should leave more demanding extra curricular activities to their better months.