There really is no better time of year to be a kid than around the holidays…the twinkling lights, the festive decorations, the delicious goodies…and of course, all of the presents under the tree just waiting to be opened!
The days and weeks leading up to Christmas tend to be filled with joy, excitement, and an ever-growing anticipation for all the gift-filled fun of Christmas morning!
Every family has their own set of traditions and rituals that make this time of year extra special, and as kid, these are the moments that stick with you throughout your entire life and make the holiday season that much more memorable.
To this day, I still decorate my tree in the exact same way that my Mom did when I was a kid and it still doesn’t quite feel like Christmas until I put on the same holiday movies that we watched as a family nearly twenty years ago (Home Alone, anyone?).
But what happens after all the presents have been opened and the festivities have all come to an end?
Feeling blue or depressed after December 25th has come and gone is actually much more common than you may think.
For adults, the post-Christmas blues often have to do with residual stress from family get-togethers, unmet holiday expectations, or worries about having spent too much money.
For kids however, the post-Christmas blues tend to come from a genuine sadness that all of the holiday celebrations are over. And, let’s be honest, also from the fact that there are no more presents left to open.
It’s important to note that for some kids, the post-Christmas blues might not appear as sadness, but rather, as a post-Christmas high that just won’t quit. Sometimes it can be difficult for kids to let go of that Christmas-joy…which can be exhausting and frustrating for parents.
“While some kids might not feel any letdown once all of their new toys and books have been put away, others may feel wistful, irritable or a little grumpy,” according to Peter Goldenthal, a psychologist in Narberth, Pa., who primary focus is on families with young children.
No matter how your kids react to the passing of Christmas, the following tips can help you successfully get through the days and weeks following Christmas without completely losing your sanity!
Take Down Décor
I can clearly remember the overwhelming excitement that used to wash over me when my Dad would bring the “Christmas Boxes” up from the basement.
Putting up all of the Christmas decorations, picking out the Christmas tree and decorating it, and enjoying the coziness of all the twinkling lights that my Mom used to hang throughout the house are some of my most favorite childhood Christmas memories.
But my Mom was a firm believer in promptly taking down all of the Christmas decorations after the first of the year, which was my absolute least favorite activity.
It just felt so depressing to re-wrap all of those ornaments and live in a home with no twinkling lights.
However, in an effort to help your kids move on from the highs of the holiday season, it is important to take down the holiday décor and pack it away until next year.
Leaving up holiday décor after the holidays have passed can often add to feelings of sadness or post-Christmas blues.
And while the physical act of taking down decorations isn’t exactly fun, you can turn it into a more joyous occasion by involving your kids in a bit of re-decorating.
Perhaps there is an area of your home that needs a little freshening up – a fresh coat of paint, a rearranging of furniture, or a few new decorations.
After you have taken down the holiday decorations, ask your kids for their input on how you can improve the day to day décor in your home!
Rearranging their bedroom or painting the basement can not only give your home a much-needed face lift but can help to draw your kids attention away from the holidays and back to normal life!
This year, school got out on December 22, only three days before Christmas. For myself and my kids, those three days were easily filled with lots of holiday baking, various parties, and last-minute gift wrapping. There was never a dull moment and no time for any feelings other than excitement and holiday joy.
But once Christmas passes, there are almost two-full weeks of Christmas break left – and without the anticipation of Christmas, I’m guessing that these two weeks might feel extremely long and boring.
Which can only add to those post-Christmas blues that kids often experience.
Keeping a certain amount of structure and planning specific activities can help to take your kids attention away from the fact that Christmas is over and focus it on other things.
This year, I have made a detailed list (I truly believe everything can be solved with the right list) of activities that I will do with my kids following the Christmas holiday. Here’s what I have thus far:
- Write and Send Thank-you Cards for Gifts – create handmade cards using cardstock, stamps, glitter, markers, glue, stickers, and other craft items
- Memory Book – print photos and use any other memorabilia from the past year to create a family memory book that highlights important memories from the past year of our life
- Learn a New Skill – I am thinking using some of the gifts they received, like binoculars, to inspire a new skill like birdwatching or trying to stream a yoga class on the TV and learn yoga as a family
- Give Back – take part in some of the possible volunteer opportunities in the community like playing with animals at the local shelter or serving food to the homeless. You can visit bigheartedfamilies.org to find accessible volunteer projects.
Planning specific activities and keeping a certain amount of structure in your daily life following the holidays can be immensely helpful in fighting those post-Christmas blues, for both you and your kids!
“Kids, particularly those who are high- energy, love to have a schedule. They like to know what’s happening next,” says Jennifer Kolari, child and family therapist and author of Connected Parenting.
Consider placing a list of activities or even a weekly schedule on the refrigerator (or another common area) so that your kids will be able to focus on and get excited about activities that you have planned following the Christmas holiday.
Shifting your kids focus from Christmas and presents and all the other holiday joy can be helpful in managing to keep their spirits high while seamlessly moving past the holidays.
Put on Your Planning Hat
I know that for me, when life’s big moments or highly-anticipated events end, I need to have something to look forward to in order to not experience feelings of depression or sadness.
For instance, my wedding. I spend almost an entire year anticipating and planning this exciting event, and when it was over, I eventually felt pretty depressed.
The best way that I was able to get over that sadness was to plan the next big life event, which happened to be my graduation from grad school. While the party wasn’t nearly on the same level as my wedding, it allowed me to focus on and look forward to something else that was coming up.
This can be an effective method for beating those post-holiday blues with your kids too. Look through your yearly calendar and figure out what is the next big event, vacation, or celebration is coming up in your lives.
Maybe one of your kids has a birthday coming up or someone in the family is finishing school or having a baby. Looking forward to future events and celebrations like these can be an excellent way to shift your kid’s focus from the Christmas-highs onto something else!
No foreseeable events or celebrations coming up in the near future?
Maybe you can plan a celebration for Earth Day or a family vacation for Spring Break! It really doesn’t matter how big or small the upcoming event is, the goal is to simply plan something that your kids can focus on and get excited about that is non-holiday related.
It can be easy to get swept up in the guilty pleasures that come with the holidays and forget just how lucky we are.
I know for a fact that my parents spoiled me as kids and while I wouldn’t change a single thing about my childhood, as an adult, I know that not every kid is as lucky as I was.
The days and weeks following the holidays can be a perfect time to reflect and focus on all of the things that you and your kids have to be grateful for. One thing in particular that you can stress is the fact that you have a family, whatever your family may look like, to be grateful for.
And spending time as a family to create this gratitude list is a great way to summon joy from non-material and non-holiday items. “The parties can’t continue, but what kinds of little things can we do to make our time special?” Mary Alvord, a family psychologist in Maryland who specializes in teaching resilience says, stressing the importance of family time over more material objects.
I know that creating a gratitude list may sound kind of boring, but you can spin this in a variety of ways to keep it exciting for your kids while also making sure that they understand just how much they have to be grateful for.
If you live somewhere warm, try writing your gratitude list on the driveway with chalk! Or use glow in the dark paint to write the list on your garage or basement wall and then turn off all of the lights and enjoy some hot chocolate while you reflect on all of the items on your list.
One of the great things about creating a gratitude list as a family after the holidays, is that while your kids are certain to be grateful for all of the gifts that they received at Christmas, it is the perfect time to remind them about all of the non-material things that they have to be grateful for all year long!
Growing up in an Italian-Jewish family, food was the foundation of every single family get-together or celebration.
And since the holidays included Christmas AND Hannukah, the amount of food and indulgence was absolutely unbelievable.
Whether your family partakes in an excess of holiday goodies or not, a great way to move past the holidays and shift your kids focus is by getting active.
And there are a ton of different ways to do this!
While adults often go into the New Year with plans of hitting the gym on a more regular basis (I have made and failed at this goal way too many years in a row), getting in shape can often be more easily achieved by getting active as a family.
Plus, getting more active on a regular basis as a family can help beat the post-Christmas blues for your kids and improve everyone’s health!
Depending on where you live, you can engage in snow-friendly activities like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or even just hiking in the snow!
And for those who live in less snow-filled climates, activities like bike riding, roller blading, hiking, or even kayaking, canoeing, or rock climbing.
Being in outdoors and in nature can act as a natural mood enhancer, not to mention all of those endorphins that everyone will experience and will help move past those post-holiday blues!
Plus, for those who live in excessively cold climates, spending time indoors can really take a toll on your kids moods. “We tend to stay inside a lot over the winter, which can contribute to the blues,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., a happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and the author of Raising Happiness. “Even looking out a window or just being in daylight can improve your mood.”
Getting your family together and planning activities that keep you all active and get you outside in the fresh air is one of the best ways to beat those post-Christmas blues!