When Children Feel Sad After The Excitement Of The Holidays
THE New Year hits many children with an emotional thud as
the excitement and fantasy of the holidays are replaced by the mundane
reality of arithmetic tests and tuna casserole. For some, it is a time
of great stress as they try to make sense of all they have done and
felt over the past few months.
"To children, Christmas is built up as a time when all sorts of
wonderful and important things will happen," said Dr. Lynn P. Rehm, a
professor of psychology at the University of Houston who studies
depression among children. "And they don't happen."
Dr. Rita P. Underberg, a child psychologist and a clinical professor of
psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said: "The
holiday is never as good as what the children see on television in the
commercials or on Christmas cards. I've been warning parents not to be
discouraged if their children regress emotionally a bit after the
Children who become more demanding, clinging and whiny at this time of
year are usually tired or overstimulated. Their problems are almost
always solved by sleep and a return to the old pre-holiday routines at
home. But for other families, post-holiday stress is more serious.
"We know that adults tend to become more depressed after the holidays,"
said Dr. David Fassler, a child psychiatrist in Burlington, Vt., and an
instructor at the Harvard Medical School. "We see an increase in
referrals to mental health centers in January."
Children may also show bouts of sadness, either because of their own
disappointment or in response to their parents' emotions. "Depression
in children is often a reflection of depression in their parents," Dr.
Rehm said. "In one outpatient clinic where we did our research, more
than 40 percent of the children who were diagnosed as depressed had
mothers who were also depressed."