Dr. RJ Jackson joined Stephanie to discuss the Holiday Blues and how parents can help their teens navigate through the difficulties of the holiday season.

What are the Holiday Blues and how do children get affected by them?

For many, the holiday season evokes feelings of joy, love and gratitude, it can also bring feelings of anxiety, loneliness, depression and stress – the dreaded “holiday blues” – for others. And even though adults are the ones doing the bulk of the stressful gift purchasing, hosting parties, cooking meals, and driving from house to house for social gatherings, children and teens also get down during the holidays – a fact that is often overlooked in conversations about the “holiday blues.”

For a child, sadness during the holidays could come from feeling uncomfortable at holiday parties and other social gatherings, lack of money to purchase gifts for friends or loved ones, being separated from friends at school, or splitting time at multiple homes due to the divorce or separation of parents.

How can we combat the holiday blues with our children?

Hold a Family Meeting

I’m a big believer in family meetings, and the time off afforded to most of us during the holidays presents a fantastic opportunity to hold them. The structure of the meeting isn’t important; what’s key is that you keep it positive and involve everyone! Brainstorm vacation ideas for the new year. Talk about other important upcoming milestones and how the family can best celebrate them. Make lists of individual and family goals and priorities. The options are limitless, but keep it positive, have everyone in the family involved and engaged, and take everyone’s input seriously. Family meetings can help kids who feel disconnected over the holidays be reminded that they’re not alone and can give them the chance to speak up and feel included in family plans and activities.

Explore Their Interests

The holidays are the perfect time to spend one-on-one time with your child and find out what makes them tick. Is their passion video gaming? If so, play a game with them. Is their passion sports? If so, join your child in watching their favorite team play. Once you really get to know your child’s interests, you’ll feel much closer to them and will be able to connect on a deeper level. By exploring your child’s interests and helping them figure themselves out, they’ll gain a sense of self.

Stop and Listen

As you’re spending more time with your child during the holidays, pay close attention to the words that they use. Many of our children’s negative feelings are self-perpetuated and show up in their speech. If you’re hearing your child say things like “I’m fat,” “I’m stupid,” or “I’m ugly,” it’s important to acknowledge what they are saying and feeling – don’t just dismiss it. Instead, say, “I understand you feel that way,” or “I understand how things like this happen.” And then talk about it – share your own insecurities and tell them how much you love and support them. Let them know you are always there to listen when they’re feeling down.

How can we continue to encourage our children and teens?

While these are just a few steps that parents can take to help their children this holiday season, ultimately, to help our children be confident, self-motivated, resilient and happy, we need to communicate with them. Ask questions out of curiosity. Listen with attention, interest, and patience, and pause and stay calm in highly emotional moments. I recently released a new book: Parenting Happy Teens: It’s An Inside Job, which dives deeper into the reasons why teenagers are minimizing their potential, making self-destructive choices, and experiencing so much stress, worry, and unhappiness, and ultimately reveals fundamental but extraordinary ways to better understand and support your teen, without lecturing, cajoling, bribing, arguing, or punishing!

How can parents learn more about you and your strategies?

Visit www.drrjjackson.com to learn more about my strategies for uplifting and encouraging children and teens, and parents can also listen to my podcast, “A Teen’s Perspective: Helping Parents See the Future.

About Dr. RJ Jackson 

An orthodontist-turned-teen-life-coach, Dr. RJ Jackson has dedicated his life to helping young people create authentic smiles from the inside out. For nearly 10 years, Dr. Jackson has worked with more than 1,000 teens and their parents, helping them to build confidence and motivation and overcome struggles like depression and anxiety. In addition to his coaching practice, Dr. Jackson is host of “A Teen’s Perspective: Helping Parents See the Future,” a top-15 parenting podcast and is the author of two books. His latest, “Parenting Happy Teens: It’s an Inside Job” is due to be published later this year