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Put an End to the Post-Holiday Blues

Keep your family’s spirits up when the holiday season is winding down.

The holidays arrive and faster than you could have imagined, they’re over, leaving behind the promise of… well, normalcy. This can be a big letdown for kids who’ve bundled all of their excitement and energy for weeks, and who now suffer from a case of post-holiday blues.

Luckily, there are many ways to boost your family’s spirits once the holidays are a thing of the past.

Try these tips to help your kids coast happily into the New Year:

Go easy on screens

Most parents and school-age children don’t have a lot of extra time to sit and enjoy a movie or catch up on social media during the school year or workweek. So when there’s extra time to veg out over holiday breaks and work vacations, it’s tempting to lounge in front of the television or update your social media sites.

There’s no harm in this, of course, unless it becomes excessive. It’s easy for kids (and parents) to roll from one screen to another and before you know it, it’s three in the afternoon and no one has ingested anything but potato chips and chocolate milk all day. The sugar crash alone is enough to make anyone a little cranky.

Keep in mind, you will eventually have to get back on a schedule, so don’t deviate too much. Allow everyone some indulgences, but don’t fall under the spell of blue-light haze. It tampers with your body as well as your mind.

Take a night-light stroll

Nothing says ‘holiday season’ like stores and houses adorned with twinkling lights. But let’s face it, when December winds down and the calendar flips to a new year, these displays can feel a little depressing.

Before the sadness sets in, go for a night walk or drive with your kids to take in the lights one last time. You can even make a game out of it, awarding honors like “Best Winter Wonderland” or “Most Like the Griswolds.”

These little jaunts have lots of benefits. For one thing, they get everyone out of the house, which can be a difficult thing to do among piles of presents (and hours of football games). They also facilitate some quality family time. Even if you have to drive to see some lights, just being together and having some light conversation is a simple treat (make sure everyone leaves their phones at home). Plus, if you have young children, a long ride in a warm car may just be enough to help them drift into a peaceful sleep.

Reclaim routines

The holidays, and the accompanying school breaks and days off, bring about the best and worst of disruptions: a major change in routine. While it initially feels great to stay up late and sleep past seven, the lack of structure over the course of many days can affect your family’s mood and wreak havoc on productivity.

The truth is, there’s a certain comfort in routines, so it’s never too early to start reclaiming some semblance of a daily schedule. If you usually eat dinner at six, maintain that as best you can. Also, stick reasonably close to bedtimes. If you need to return to work while your kids are home, make sure your care provider is on board, sticking to a nap and meal schedule, and limiting screen time and grazing.

Also, maintain expectations for chores. If your kids usually bring their dirty pajamas downstairs in the morning before school, have them keep it up. Do they read before bed? Hold on to that habit. It’s nice to have some time to relax, but if you ditch all of your routines, getting them back when you need them will seem downright impossible.

Reflect and preserve

It’s not your imagination - the holidays go by quickly, especially in comparison with the weeks spent preparing for them. For many parents, the exhaustion of holiday shopping, activities and cooking is so all-consuming that by the last week in December, they can barely snap a photo with their smartphone. So enlist some assistance in preserving your holiday memories. Pass around the camera over the course of winter vacation, and let everyone capture some memories. Then choose a night where you can print out some favorite photos and have a few laughs to remember this year’s good times. No printer? You can also work together to create a photo collage or book online. This is a great way for kids to reflect on the happy memories you’ve made, and also helps preserve them for years to come.

Look ahead

There comes a time when even the most festive family needs to bid farewell to the holidays. And while it’s sometimes sad to return to normalcy, it doesn’t have to be the end of anticipation. Choose something in the not-too-distant future to look forward to - a day off from school, the first snow day, the release of a book or movie, or even just the next weekend.

Plan a little celebration. A small ‘we made it through the first week back’ pizza party can be a great motivator for kids getting back in the swing of alarm clocks and algebra. If you’re really ambitious, start putting up decorations for Valentine’s Day. You can even do something small like keeping track of the sunset, and noticing how every day is a little lighter than the one before.

Don’t let your family fall victim to the holiday blues. Use these tips to brighten up the short January days, and before you know it, your kids will be looking forward to the next big thing. Happy New Year!

Beth is a freelance writer and mother of two.

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