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Ask Dr. Bob
 

Post-Holiday Blahs Aren't That Uncommon

This column originally ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Dec. 31, 2007.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and there are plenty of great things to look forward to in 2008.  One of the things many parents don’t look forward to, however, is their children’s bout with the “Post-Holiday Blues.”

The blues, or the “blahs” as they are sometimes called, can set in after weeks of festivity associated with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s. It’s easy to understand why some people feel a little deflated when Jan. 1 rolls around.

The post-holiday blues are seen in many forms, ranging from the ordinary (crankiness, poutiness and sometimes bed-wetting) to more serious signals like trouble at school or with family members.

“When a child’s behavior changes, parents should talk with them and ask what they think is going on. Sometimes just getting that attention from the parent will help things return to normal,” says Dr. Ken Haller, a pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.  “In some cases, though, the end of the holiday season can trigger the first signs of something more significant like depression. If the child is having problems functioning at school or with their family relationships, and you can’t pull them out of it, it’s a good time to see the pediatrician.”

The causes for post-holiday blues can be as simple as the child not getting what they wanted for Christmas, or finding out the hard way that toys are often not as exciting as they appear to be on TV.  Other reasons are more related to a break in the normal routine.

“When you think about it, children eat more fatty foods and a lot more candy during the holidays. So diet is one factor,” Haller explains. “Another thing that really blows the routine is that kids often stay up later and sleep in longer during the holidays.  It can take as long as a week to get back into normal waking and sleeping times.”

Then there’s the parental influence factor.  Quite often, parents feel the pinch of the holidays once the holiday shopping bills start to come due.  Children are very perceptive of their parents’ moods and can mirror the outlook and behavior they see modeled.

Mothers and fathers can help their children break through the post-holiday fog with empowering activities.

“You can tell the child, ‘Now that the New Year is here, we can come up with some ways to help you get back into the routine.’  But let the child play a role in that,” Haller says.  “After school and before bed, children need time for play, chores, supper, relaxing after supper, homework, and bedtime rituals like bath and reading. Let your child help to decide about the sequencing and time allotted to each activity. That gives them something to focus on, now that all the excitement of the holidays is over.”

 

Dr. Bob Wilmott is Chief of Pediatrics at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and is a Professor of Pediatric Medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. If you have a child health question for Dr. Wilmott, go to the “Ask Dr. Bob” section of the Cardinal Glennon Web site at www.cardinalglennon.com.

12/31/2007