When we first moved to Alaska, I was confident about getting through their famously harsh winters. I had grown up in Chicago after all. Lake effect snow, winter vortex, sleet, icy roads, below freezing winds? I had seen it all, or so I thought. Because of this, I gave no thought to following the advice of the hardcore Alaskans, the ones who have lived here for decades in the icy Interior and boy did I pay the price. Now we’re in the midst of our second winter here, with several feet of snow, only a few hours of daylight, and temperatures that dip close to negative 30 degrees. This winter, I have been implementing these tips and tricks with my own family and seen it work firsthand. Whether you live in Alaska or not, take their advice to help your kids beat the winter blues.
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Invest in a happy light
For some people, frigid temperatures, less time spent outside, and diminishing sunlight can leave them feeling sluggish, irritable, and unproductive. In Fairbanks, we receive just 3.5 hours of daylight on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. For this reason, many Alaskans and their kids regularly use a happy light to help combat the effects of the winter blues.
Increase Vitamin D
In the winter months, most people in colder climates are apt to spending less time outside. This can lead to a lack of adequate sunlight, which is linked to Vitamin D deficiency. Research shows that a deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to an increased risk in higher rates of certain cancers, skin diseases, mood disorders, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, coronary heart disease, and more. To help raise Vitamin D levels, try providing your kids with Vitamin D rich foods, such as fatty fish such as tuna or salmon, mushrooms, orange juice, egg yolks, and some dairy products including milk and cheese.
Vitamin D supplements are also available for children. Alaskans recommend beginning Vitamin D supplementation in late summer to fully combat the effects of Vitamin D deficiency. As always, ask your child’s pediatrician before starting them on a supplement.
Kids are full of energy and in the winter months, this can be more challenging in times when going outside is not an option. Take a tip from Alaska and schedule time for indoor activities where kids can run around and expel some of this energy. Going to the gym or an indoor play place, or signing up for lessons such as swimming, dance, or indoor sports can be great ways to give your kids increased exercise to help beat the winter blues.
Plan a trip
Alaskans are notorious for breaking up the winter with a vacation. So much so that Alaska Airlines runs a special every October with discounted fares out of Alaska to California, Hawaii, Mexico, and more. Research shows that even the act of planning for a vacation can increase happiness levels. So save those frequent flyer miles or look for great deals on flights and relax with your kids somewhere warmer, sunnier, or a change of pace and scenery to help beat the winter blues.
Kids need socialization and this can be especially important during the winter when staying indoors can lead to cabin fever and the winter blues. Fairbanks is well known for having a tight-knit community, something that has helped generations since the first pioneers survive and thrive in the harsh climate. Help your kids beat the winter blues by scheduling playdates and family time. Board games, card games, crafts, science experiments, art projects, and more creative activities can help your kids keep their brains sharp and save your own sanity during these long winter days.
If symptoms of the winter blues in you or your kids continue or worsen, talk to your doctor or therapist about other changes that may be necessary to get through these winter months.
Related post: Things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska