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Summertime Depression? 3 Indicators That Your Kid Has It.

Summertime Depression? 3 Indicators That Your Kid Has It.

As parents, we often think of summer as a carefree time filled with fun and relaxation. However, for many teens and young adults, summer can bring unexpected challenges, including summertime depression. Being aware of the signs and knowing how to support your child can make a significant difference. Here are three indicators that your kid might be experiencing summertime depression, along with tips to help them cope.

1. Withdrawal from Activities and Social Isolation

One of the most noticeable signs of summertime depression is when your child starts withdrawing from activities they usually enjoy. This could be anything from sports and hobbies to social gatherings with friends. It seems crazy because you’d think that with more time out of school they would have more time for activities. School often provides the structure to get kids involved, so it make sense that without that structure many kids don’t know how to engage themselves in activity. If your typically active teen suddenly prefers to stay in their room and be on their phone rather than go out, this is a red flag.

How to Help:

  • Encourage Engagement: Gently encourage, sometimes even insist, your child to participate in activities they used to enjoy. Suggest new hobbies or interests that might spark their enthusiasm. Set goals with them in these hobbies and interests that are measurable for them to see their progress.
  • Facilitate Social Opportunities: Arrange social activities with close friends or family members: barbecues, pool parties, family reunions are all hallmarks of healthy summertime social interactions. This seems intuitive, but all too often today parents are settling for staying in and kids end up more on screens and isolating with video games.
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2. Changes in Sleep Patterns and Appetite

Depression often affects sleep and eating habits. Your child might start sleeping much more or much less than usual. That can seem difficult because of the lack of summertime schedule, and the question is how do you find the balance. Similarly, they might lose their appetite or begin overeating. These changes can significantly impact their overall well-being.

How to Help:

  • Establish a Routine: Maintain a regular daily routine, even during summer. Staying up late every now and then can be fun, but too much of it will definitely have negative effects on behavior and well being. Establishing consistent wake-up and bedtimes with your kids can help them regulate their sleep patterns.
  • Monitor Eating Habits: Encourage balanced meals and regular eating times. Lack of schedules often lead to more fast food and snacking, which is good in moderation, but has depressive effects when it become the norm. Make sure that your family is getting plenty of Serotonin producing foods in their diet, like eggs, nuts, pineapple, lean meats, fish, fruits and veggies, milk and cheese. Sometimes cooking together can make mealtime more appealing and ensure they’re eating properly.
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3. Expressions of Hopelessness or Persistent Sadness

If your child frequently expresses feelings of hopelessness or sadness, it’s a serious indicator of depression. Pay attention to what they say about themselves and their future. Phrases like “What’s the point?” or “I just don’t care anymore” should not be taken lightly. Although this is common phraseology for teens and young adults, view it as an invitation to connect. They are literally asking you to communicate, though their body language may not portray it.

How to Help:

  • Open Communication: Let them know it’s okay to feel sad and that you’re there to support them. Kids love stories, so try to relate to how they are feeling with experiences of your own. Don’t be afraid to get vulnerable with them and let them know you also experience difficult and uncomfortable emotions. The empathy you show will bind you closer together and help them feel the additional human connection they need to thrive.
  • Seek Professional Help: If their depressive feelings persist, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Often, professional guidance is necessary to navigate depression. Parents often find it difficult to relate to their depressive child when they consider all their child has to be grateful for. As parents we all work really hard to provide a comfortable living for our kids, and it’s easy to overlook or minimize how they experience life based on our perspective. Professional help can really reinforce your perspective and help your child learn how to combat depression with gratitude.

Practical Tips to Support Your Child

Here are additional ways to help your child manage and overcome summertime depression:

Create a Balanced Schedule

Summer doesn’t have to mean a lack of structure. Help your child create a balanced schedule that includes time for relaxation, activities, and social interactions. Writing up a daily schedule and posting it on the fridge is a practical way to implement it and can provide a sense of normalcy and purpose.

Encourage Physical Activity

Exercise is a natural mood booster. Encourage your child to stay active, whether it’s through sports, swimming, biking, or even daily walks. Sounds crazy, but you may even have to insist on it, facilitate it, and might I dare add participate with them. Don’t sit on your phone as they swim, get in the pool and swim with them, go running with them, or even pick up the ball and play with them. Physical activity can help alleviate symptoms of depression especially as you connect with them through the activity.

Plan Meaningful Family Activities

Spend quality time together as a family, that doesn’t mean everybody on screens in different parts of the house. Plan activities that everyone enjoys, whether it’s a day trip hiking or visiting a new city, board or card game night, or simply visiting the library. Family support can be incredibly comforting and give meaning and purpose to life.

Foster Connections

Help your child maintain connections with friends and family. Regular face to face social interactions, not virtual ones, can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation. When we are physically with other people our bodies create the long term reward hormone oxytocin that helps us feel satisfied. You must know that when we interact with humans through a screen we don’t create oxytocin, but our bodies create the short term addictive hormone called dopamine, that leaves us feeling unsatisfied and scrolling for hours on social media. While screens promise connection, our bodies’ physiology shows us that it is actually the counterfeit to human connection.

Final Thoughts

Summertime depression is a real and challenging issue for many teens and young adults. By being aware of the signs and knowing how to support your family, you can help them navigate through these next few months. Remember, the most important thing you can offer is structure and you being physically present with them too. Together, you can make this summer a productive and positive experience.