For kids with special health needs, the flashing lights, blaring music, crowded malls, social events and schedule changes of “the most wonderful time of year” can be overwhelming. Children with mental health issues or developmental and physical challenges such as autism, ADHD, sensory issues, depression and anxiety may need extra help managing the festivities of the season.
One tip for parents from psychology and psychiatry professor at FIU’s Center for Children and Families, Dr. Jeremy Pettit, is take care of your own health. “Depression tends to run in families, so it’s important parents of kids struggling with these mental health issues take care of themselves” said Dr. Pettit.
“In depressed teens, we are more likely to see depressed parents and high anxiety. There’s a better-than-average chance some of those parents may have some of the same issues,” he said, adding that substance abuse may also go hand in hand with depression. Pettit recommends that families keep to their normal routines when it comes to sleeping and eating, even if they’re on vacation.
“Adolescents get a break from school and their sleep-wake cycle gets completely disrupted. They sleep a lot during the day. They eat differently and are often more sedentary and that has an impact on mood and can exacerbate issues sometimes,” said Pettit. Families should stay physically active and eat healthfully during the holidays because that can help, too, especially if there’s a history of depression and anxiety, said Pettit. It may be tempting to cancel regular mental health counseling appointments due to busy schedules at this time of year, but Pettit says therapy may be a great support for families during this time.
Read the full article for more tips during the holidays.