Articles and Topics
The Post-Holiday Letdown
Well, the holidays are over. The wrapping paper that was saved is all put away for next year. Hopefully, thank you notes have been written and thank you calls made. Some bills are even paid. No one was stranded in a snowbound airport, and there wasn’t a single major quarrel at the big family gathering. So, why do you feel let down? A little depressed?

That feeling is very common in adults after the holidays. Some years ago, Peggy Lee recorded a poignant song dealing with this sensation. In it, she asks: “Is that all there is?”

That’s what we sometimes ask ourselves. The feeling is so common that it has been given several names, including “The Winter Blues” or “Post-Holiday Stress Syndrome.” Some have concluded that these seasonal blues are a function of the reduced light available to us during the winter. You can even buy special lamps designed to help combat the condition. Whatever the cause or name, it’s something many of us have experienced.

Children Feel It, Too

Mark walks into the kitchen shuffling his feet and complains to his mother, “I don’t have anything to do.”

“Why don’t you go outside and ride your bike?” Mom suggests.

“It’s too cold.”

“Well, how about playing with your new robot?”

“It needs a new battery.”

You might as well not stop what you are doing to find a battery. Any suggestion you offer is likely to be met with some reason as to why it won’t work. This little drama illustrates the fact that young children also experience a post-holiday letdown. The high level of excitement is over. Indulgent grandparents have returned home. The new toys they received as gifts sit on the shelf unattended.

Parent Engagement Is Essential

During this letdown period, parents need to help the young child readjust his internal “thermostat” to a reduced level of excitement and stimulation. I have a few suggestions to offer.
  • Find some time each day to sit with your child and let him “demonstrate” how an exciting new toy works. If it is a toy designed for solitary play, he will probably play with it after showing it to you.
  • If there’s a children’s museum in your area, take your child there. Make sure that the trip is not rushed or hurried, and allow plenty of time for every light switch to be turned on and off, every lever to be pumped and every ball to be dropped from its perch. Go to lunch together afterward.
  • Spend time outdoors. If the ground is covered with snow, make a snow person. If snow never occurs in your part of the country, take a neighborhood walk and look for bulbs breaking ground. Talk about the weather. Check your outdoor thermometer and help establish a connection between certain numbers and how cold it feels.
  • Allow a telephone call to a favorite teacher, if you have the number and that sort of thing is permitted by school rules.
  • Help your child write (draw, scribble) thank you notes. Children are never too young to learn the importance of this simple act of kindness.
  • Indulge her in a long-distance call to grandparents. Give a little coaching in advance to make certain that the words “I miss you” get into the conversation.
  • Have him help make a scrapbook of the pictures you took over the holidays. Let him dictate captions to be put on the pictures.
  • Let her dictate a short story about what the family did over the holidays. Write or type it and put it in with the holiday pictures.
Such activities will help your young child get through the post-holiday letdown. And you know what? They’ll help you, too.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education