Helping Young People through the Winter Blues

Jan 3, 2023 9:00:00 AM / by Rev. Carla Wilson

Congratulations! You made it through the gauntlet of Advent and Christmas. Pageants and showcases and special music and parties and presents are completed. For adults it may be a welcome rest and herald a slightly quieter season, but it is also when the fatigue we have been pushing past all December catches up to us. The "Winter Blues" or "Winter Blahs" many adults experience can be worsened by short days with little sunshine and reduced outdoor time in cold or rainy states. This affects young people even more because they have not yet developed the emotional regulation to adapt to sudden changes in stimulation and activity patterns.

After the travel, school break, interactions with new people, diet changes (and sugar consumption!), being highly stimulated for long periods of time and disrupted sleep, it's highly likely you will notice a shift in your young people's behavior and mood. An uptick in irritability, being easily frustrated, difficulty focusing, and quickly losing interest in activities is common among children and youth of all ages in January and February. Instead of writing off the winter season, this can be a wonderful opportunity to support students intentionally practicing self-regulation and being aware of their own needs, bodies, and behavior.

Try adding check-in time to your learning spaces of you don't already have that practice. Encourage students to name their emotions using feeling words and express grief or fatigue without judgement or suggestions on how to fix it. Re-introduce structure in a fun way by creating new traditions or projects that involve self-care or goal setting (easy tie-ins with the new year). Curate indoor spaces to express emotion in a safe way, like a pillow pile or indoor hammock to withdraw to or a dance-a-thon to release energy.

Of course every child is different, but as Christmas just reminded us, there is a reason for the season. As caretakers of young people, we can remember there is usually a legitimate reason for changes in behavior and emotional response. Knowing that, we can take the time to create spaces where youth can safely express themselves and learn to hold those emotions in healthy ways.

Topics: Children Ministry, Youth Ministry

Rev. Carla Wilson

Written by Rev. Carla Wilson

Still a professional diversity trainer and cultural competency consultant, The Rev. Carla Christopher Wilson also serves as Assistant to the Bishop in Charge of Justice Ministries for Lower Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA. A former Poet Laureate of York, Pennsylvania and an adoring dog mom, Carla lives in Lancaster, PA with her family.


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