We all have them: Dreary days, down-days, or what my family sometimes just calls “the blahs.” Sometimes they are the result of a disappointment or a rough season in life, sometimes they just show up.
Kids are not immune to the blues. Even here in Hawaii where the sun is usually shining and the water’s always warm, my boys have days where I can tell they’re in a funk, and they just don’t know how to get out. As a parent it can break your heart, and we often want to jump in to the rescue–willing to do almost anything to cheer up one of our kids.
And sometimes we can help! A little one-on-one time with a parent, or baking their favorite treat might help turn a mood around. Sometimes kids respond to a simple pep-talk, and sometimes they need a good old fashion nap. (don’t we all?)
But what kids might need most of all is to learn how to pick themselves up when they’re down. This is a skill that they’ll need for the rest of their lives!
Five ways we can help our kids overcome the blues.
1. Get some fresh air and exercise. No doubt one of the most life-long skills to battle fatigue and depression is exercise. If your kid is lying around the house in a funk, teach them the simple principle of getting up and getting active! A simple walk in the fresh air can work wonders. If they are stuck inside, shoot for ten to fifteen minutes of dancing, jumping jacks, or any kind of moving around. Crank up some music and let them go!
2. Make a thankful list! No matter what age, we can all find things to be thankful for. If they’re really little, you can write for them, but get your kids thinking about all of the good in their life, and soon their bummed mood might change to a blessed mood. This is a great daily or weekly habit for kids who struggle with feeling down. (good for all of us, actually!)
3. Get focused on others. When we consider needs or concerns of other people, it always helps us regain perspective. Kids tend to be selfish by nature, so they might need a little reminder to think about other people. Do you know someone sick or hurting? Have your child make a card or help you put together a care package! You can look up a world concern (hunger, disease) on the internet and simply talk to your child about people going through really bad times in this world. Teaching your child to pray for others, or actively support a cause can help shift their focus.
4. Help your child to name their feelings. Ask your child to describe what they are feeling, and then offer them some words that might help them articulate their feelings. “Are you feeling lonely?” “Maybe you feel a bit disappointed ?” Or “Is it sometimes hard to be the oldest brother?” Encourage your children to accept how they are feeling, and then offer them some ways to turn their struggles around. “Let’s brainstorm ways to make some new friends next week!” “How can you make tomorrow a better day?” Or “Let’s look into some of the really important people in history who were big brothers. I’ll bet they struggled at some point growing up too!”
5. Teach your kids to encourage themselves. After you’ve had a few pep talks with your kids, it’s time to pass the baton! You can then encourage them to practice encouraging themselves! The next time they are feeling down, or struggling with feelings, you can say, “How might you turn that feeling around?” Let them wrestle with it, and gently lead them to find positive ways to look at things! This might take some practice, but this simple skill will help them tremendously through their teenage years and…for the rest of their lives!
Remember parents, growing up is hard work! We need to allow our kids to go through all kinds of feelings, and offer them support and unconditional love as they do. If ever you sense that your child is in a dangerous state emotionally, seek professional help! But for the those down days that are a normal part of life? The best way you can help your kids is to teach them to help themselves!