Winter darkness and colder weather can cause your child’s mood and health habits to take a dive. To help, start with the basics!

Connecticut Children’s pediatric psychologist Melissa Santos, PhD, shares her top five tips.

Want more articles like this from pediatric experts you trust?

Sign up for our newsletter.

1. Eat right.

Make it easy for yourself: Decide on a meal prep day for your family and spend time together trying new recipes and making sure your fridge is ready to make it easy to eat right.

2. Keep moving.

The winter months can make it so hard to get moving, which can take a toll on mood. Take time each day to do something to move your body – start your day with yoga, have a dance party with your family, get out for a hike on the weekends or just use your phone or tracker to get your steps in.

> Related: 5 Heart-Healthy Choices for the Whole Family

Melissa Santos, PhD

3. Watch your sleep.

Is there anything better than waking up all curled up under the covers on a cold winter morning? It’s so easy to sleep in. But we want to make sure kids aren’t getting too little – or too much – sleep.  

Unfortunately, there’s no way to actually “catch up” on sleep. So focus on helping your child fall asleep and wake up at around the same time every day. If they have problems falling asleep, consider an app like Sleep Bug, which has lots of different sound effects to encourage sleep.

> Related: Tips for Better Sleep for Mental Health

4. Get some sunlight.

Humans are basically houseplants with emotions – and they need sun. Getting out in those rare daylight hours is so important to lifting our mood and getting good vitamins!

> Related: More Than the Winter Blues? Kids and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Mother and teenager daughter talk with therapist

5. Build in extra mood-boosters.

Since darkness and cold weather can easily impact mood, it’s important to be proactive in wintertime about building mood-boosters into your child’s day. When in doubt, have your child create a “mood jar”: Fill a jar with written reminders of things that always give their mood a lift – an activity, a memory, whatever. Go to the jar when they need a mood boost!

As always, if you’re concerned about your child’s health (or your own), please talk to your doctor. We’re here to help!

>Related: Tools to Get Through Life’s Challenges