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For Parents

Parenting Tips

Smart Solutions for Cabin Fever

Dear Janie,

My family is very active and we love to spend as much time outside as possible. Now that winter has set in and it’s too cold to do the outdoor activities we love, I’ve noticed my children, my husband and myself getting moody and irritable. I need some ideas to help reclaim our happy “summer mood” and keep it going through the chilly months ahead. Can you help?


Dear Sunny,

If your mood tumbles along with the falling autumn leaves, you aren’t alone. According to statistics from the American Academy of Family Physicians, 6 out of every 100 people in the United States suffer from winter depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Another 10 to 20% may experience a more mild form of SAD.

SAD is characterized by annual episodes of depression in fall and winter, which go away in the warmer, brighter spring and summer months. SAD is directly related to changes in the amount of sunlight absorbed by the body, affecting body temperature, hormone production and an overall sense of well-being.

The good news about SAD is that its symptoms melt away once warmer, sunnier weather returns. That fact isn’t much consolation, however, when the snow is ankle-deep, the wind chill is subzero, and you are feeling blue.

As parents, our moods often rub off on our children, so make the decision that you are going to approach this winter with a sunny new outlook. Commit to approaching each day as a new opportunity to explore the indoors. Plan ahead, be creative and have fun with your children.

Here are a few affordable ways to enjoy the indoors:
• Make an obstacle course out of soft items (like pillows and bean bag chairs) and reward the person who completes the course in the fastest time. Make a competition out of picking up the obstacle course after you are finished.
• Create a scavenger hunt throughout the house using items you have on hand. Let the winner choose dinner or a movie (or both!).
• Have a “camp out” in the living room complete with sleeping bags and pillows. Turn off the television, light the fireplace and tell ghost stories. Make s’mores in the microwave for dessert.
• Pull out your old family videos and have a movie night starring your family. Kids love seeing themselves as babies and hearing stories about when they were learning to talk and walk, so take a trip down memory lane and share your memories.
• Plan family outings to some of your community’s wonderful indoor entertainment spots. Explore museums and the zoo. Take a swim at a local indoor pool.
• Plan ahead for snow days by preparing a Snow Day Kit filled with games, coloring books and favorite snacks. On the rare warm winter day, get out and shoot some hoops, take a walk or play catch.

These are just a few ideas to warm your days, so don’t let the blustery winter weather get you down. Go back to the basics of doing simple, low-cost activities with your children and prepare to have fun during the winter months. It’s a great time to reconnect with what’s most important – your family.