Winter break is a time when kids can take time away from school for the winter holidays and relax while being with family. For most people, the winter season and holidays serve as one of the most exciting times of the year.
The excitement of spending time with family, Christmas, and having a break from work and school creates a time for celebration. But this time of the year is not always easy for everyone, and for some teens, winter break can feel more like a dread than an opportunity to relax.
Challenges The Holidays Present for Teens With SUD
Although school and academic work does not necessarily bring a sense of pleasure for teens, the routine of going to school and seeing their peers is essential in their life. Winter break can serve as a disruption to the routine with prolonged time away from that structure. The decrease in activity can lead to the feeling of boredom and loneliness. As a way to cope, teens may begin to experiment with things that bring them a sense of pleasure including drug and alcohol use. For teens who already have a history of abusing substances, this break can trigger use again.
With the holidays comes a surplus in planned events such as visiting relatives, travel arrangements, and Holiday activities. This can make teens feel like winter is a hectic time and cause sensory overload for some. The swell of stress and anxiety has been shown to trickle into depression and may result in other symptoms of mental health challenges.
Signs your Teen is Struggling with Winter Break
If you are worried that winter break has an adverse effect on your teen’s emotional and mental health, here are some warning signs to consider.
- Increase in unusual or disruptive behaviors (aggression, irritability, sadness, explosive outburst)
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Lack of interest in holiday activities
- Negative self-talk or mentions of suicidal thoughts and self-harm
- Disinterest in social interactions
Mental health symptoms don’t always externalize and become evident to other people. Depression and anxiety can be an internal battle for teens, where some hold everything in and “pretend” they are ok. If you suspect that your teen may be internally suppressing their emotions, set aside time to have them verbally express how they feel.
Tips to Help Make Winter Break Easier for your Teen
As a parent, wanting to help your teen when you see them struggling is often the first thing you want to do. However, you may find that offering a helping hand is seemingly easier said than done. If you are looking for ways to support your teen through winter break, consider these tips to get you started.
Introduce Self-care Options
Winter break is still a time to let kids wind down and relax from the stress of school. While filling the free time with other responsibilities, teach them how to take the free time to care for themselves. Introduce different activities that help them unplug like, reading books for enjoyment. Relaxing activities like painting, drawing, or creative writing also allow them to clear their head creatively, and they may find that they have a talent for it. Spending time doing activities that help them release any negative feelings through healthier stress-relieving actions.
Volunteer or Seasonal Employment
The free time of winter break can make the days feel longer and lonelier. Finding seasonal employment or volunteer opportunities is a great way for them to fill their days doing something productive. This gives a sense of structure and responsibility that they can commit to daily or during a scheduled time. Seasonal employment allows them to earn money that they can then spend on themselves and feel proud of earning.
Spending every day only playing video games or surfing the internet can lead to many downfalls for teens. With all the free time winter break has to offer, teens may find themselves forming a video game addiction or internet addiction, due to relying on the pleasure these actions bring. Although the weather may not always permit outdoor activities, encourage them to hit the gym to exercise or play a sport. Exercise not only keeps the body in physical shape but also releases positive endorphins. The rigorous movement has been known to reduce symptoms of depression and, over time, can serve as a release for negative emotions.
Set Aside Fun Time for Them
Have a specific day or time dedicated to doing something they enjoy. This could be going to their favorite ice cream shop or taking them somewhere fun for the weekend. Offer your child something to look forward to that isn’t necessarily related to the holidays. Going on a family outing or inviting their friends over can help put your teen in the right spirit while taking their mind off of any destructive ideas.
Teens often hide their feelings and emotions from adults, along with their substance use. For teens with SUD, the holidays can be an emotionally difficult time. With all of the free time that winter break brings, it can leave time for their minds to roam and resort back to self-destructive coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol use. At Clearfork Academy, we want to help teens identify the stressors in their life and teach them healthy coping strategies instead of self-destructive behaviors. We offer a range of behavioral therapies based on a treatment plan that is specific to your son’s needs. Our residential facility creates a safe, empathic, and judgment-free space that allows our patients to focus on recovery surrounded by staff and peers dedicated to helping them grow. Call Clearfork Academy at (888) 966-8604 to learn more about our treatment programs and get your teen the help they need today.