Top Facts Every Parent Should Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder in Children

Seasonal Affective Disorder
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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition that can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are an adult or a child. That’s why it is essential that all parents understand what SAD is, how to recognize it, and what to do about it.

This will help if your child is attending a reputable child care center, such as this one specializing in early learning Chatswood. You can work with them to deal with the issue instead of assuming your child has a learning or attitude problem.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is, as the name suggests, a seasonal issue. It affects children in the late autumn or early winter and can last until mid-spring. 

SAD is triggered by the changes in the days. That means as the days get darker and shorter your child’s brain responds differently. Instead of simply adjusting and accepting the changing light patterns, your child will dislike them and is likely to be depressed.

This will make them less interested in what is going on around them, less inclined to learn, and more likely to be grumpy or moody.

As the days start to increase in length the brain will respond normally and your child’s depression will lift. However, this isn’t a condition you want to wait to happen. No parent likes to see their child depressed and they will spend time trying to improve their mood.

Recognizing that your child has SAD and not another issue is a great starting point.

Symptoms Of The Condition

SAD is sometimes referred to as seasonal depression as this sums up the condition. Of course, there are several symptoms that confirm this is the case. If your child appears to be suffering from SAD it is advisable to see a doctor as early as possible.

  • Mood Changes

A child with SAD will be happy one moment and then suddenly be angry, sad, or simply irritable. At first, you may attribute this to a lack of sleep but when it happens all the time it becomes obvious that it is something more. 

  • Negative About everything

As your child’s brain struggles to cope with everyday things or, put a positive spin on anything you’ll find they are more likely to be negative. 

That means saying no to opportunities as they don’t see them as an opportunity. They may also criticize themselves more, find fault with everything, and be quick to blame others for issues that wouldn’t usually bother them. 

  • Excessive Sleep Levels

Children need plenty of sleep but every child is different, just like adults. If your child starts to sleep more as the darker nights set in then there is a good chance they are suffering from SAD.

The two are entwined as your child will feel less inclined to do anything, which makes it more appealing to simply stay in bed and sleep more.  

  • Reduced Energy

The lack of enthusiasm for anything will translate as a lack of energy. If their brain isn’t motivated to try anything then their metabolic rate won’t increase to give them the energy they need. The result is no energy and no enthusiasm to do anything. 

  • Comfort Eating

In order to make themselves feel better, you’ll find that many children comfort eat. Simple carbohydrates, such as those found in cakes and other sugary treats are a great way of giving them an artificial boost.

Unfortunately, they are generally followed by a crash which is made worse by the SAD. In addition, they are likely to gain weight through the excessive eating. This can lead to more feelings of low self-worth and make SAD a bigger issue. 

  • Difficulty Concentrating

Due to the slow metabolic rate and the lack of enthusiasm for anything your child is likely to find it more difficult to concentrate. This can affect their ability to learn and influence their future prospects.

It can also lead to a diagnosis of ADHD even if this is not the case.  

  • Don’t Appear To Enjoy Anything

This is the overall symptom that sums up SAD. Because they have no enthusiasm or energy everything is a chore. That means it is difficult to enjoy anything and your child will appear to be miserable all the time.

It’s heartbreaking and extremely difficult to deal with.

Dealing With SAD In Children

The good news is there are things you can do to help your child. Unsurprisingly these revolve around getting them access to more light to trick their brains into believing the winter has passed. 

  • Get Outside

A simple and often effective approach is to get your child outside more. That may mean dressing them up against the cold. But, being outside will make them feel more positive simply because it is brighter and more natural than being inside. 

Of course, you’ll need to coerce them to go outside but the effort is generally worth it.

  • Light Therapy

A doctor will often prescribe light therapy to help your child with SAD. The doctor will supply a light box. This is a specially designed box that mimics sunlight. Your child will be advised to sit in front of it for between 30-60 minutes every morning. They won’t look into the light, simply glance at it every so often. 

This can reduce the symptoms of SAD within a few days although it can take a few weeks.  Your child will need to continue using it until the days get longer again.

  • Talking About It

In some cases, children simply feel negative and lonely because of the changes in light. If this is the case it is often beneficial to talk about the issue with a qualified therapist. Your doctor will advise this and refer your child. 

As they talk they can understand the issue and this will help them to deal with it.

It is also possible to get anti-depressant medicine although this should be seen as a last resort, natural treatments are preferable.