Are You SAD?

Each month in ParentLife, Dr. Linda Mintle answers your questions in our "Real Life Solutions" department. This month we have an extra Q&A just for you about the wintertime blues.

Q: I am so tired during the day and very irritable with my two children. I can’t concentrate. I’m gaining weight and crave carbohydrates. My children keep asking me why I seem so sad, and my husband has noticed the irritability as well. Usually this mood change happens to me in the winter. I just want to sleep and get away from my kids. Any ideas as to why this is happening?

mintle03(2).jpgA: What you are describing sounds very much like the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), especially since your mood change occurs in winter and improves with the change in seasons. SAD is a treatable type of depression that is prevalent in northern climates where sunlight is minimal in winter. It usually begins around October and ends in April. Women are most susceptible, but SAD also affects men and children.

The good news is that treatment is relatively easy. It involves getting more light or light therapy. The theory is that light resets your biological clock and increases brain chemicals that alleviate depression. This does not mean you can sit anywhere there is light and feel better. Regular indoor lighting is not intense enough to be effective. You need a special type of light found in a light box designed for this kind of therapy. Some insurance companies will reimburse you for this cost.

Another option is to try something called dawn stimulation, a system of light that gradually wakes you before dawn. Also try getting 30 minutes of morning light by walking outside or sitting under a fluorescent or full spectrum light while working or watching TV.

Finally, do not confuse the symptoms of SAD with other conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. See a doctor to be sure SAD is the cause of your problems. If you suffer from severe depression, consult a mental health professional. Light therapy will not hurt you but it may not help you either.

Recommended Reading
Seasonal Affective Disorder for Dummies by Laura Smith and Charles Elliott (For Dummies, 2007).
• “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Definition” by Mayo Clinic staff — http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195

Linda Mintle, Ph.D., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has been in clinical practice for over 20 years. She is the author of 16 books, a national speaker, news contributor and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Eastern Virginia Medical School. For more about Dr. Linda, go to her Web site — www.drlindahelps.com.

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Dr. Mintle Answers Your Questions

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Each month in ParentLife, Christian counselor Dr. Linda Mintle answers your questions about parenting. We have an extra question this month and wanted to get it to you on the blog.

Q: My 5-year-old son tried to kiss a girl in kindergarten. The teacher called me and told me he chases a girl at recess and tries to kiss her. Apparently the little girl runs away and giggles. The teacher is new and young and wanted me to know. The teacher says he is doing well in class, and we don’t have problems with him at home.  He does see my husband kiss me when he comes home from work. How should I handle this and why is he doing this at such a young age? Apparently this isn’t the first girl he’s tried to kiss either!

A: Do not panic! This is the age in which your child is learning about what it means to be male. He does this primarily through identification with Dad and watching and imitating others. Developmentally, he is learning basic gender identity. He has seen your husband kiss you and watched people in movies and TV do the same.  Your son is curious and experimenting with what he has seen. It is normal to try and copy this behavior. In a few years, he will think kissing is gross! So talk to your son and tell him that kissing his classmates is inappropriate. Do not punish him but tell him to stop. He can chase the little girl he likes but not kiss her. Suggest that he play tag instead. Most important is your attitude toward this behavior. Be careful not to shame your son or make this into a big deal. How you feel about his sexual development and how you respond to normal development is important.

Post your questions for Dr. Mintle, and we will send them to her to be answered in a future issue of ParentLife!

Dr. Mintle Answers Your Questions

mintle03(2).jpgEvery month in ParentLife, Dr. Linda Mintle answers your parenting questions in her "Real Life Solutions" department. Each month, we will have an additional Q & A specifically for the blog. This month’s question is about parenting styles.

Q: My husband and I have very different parenting styles. How can we work on being united in our parenting?

A: A team approach to parenting is something most parents have to work out because they were raised in different  families. When you leave your original family, you bring to marriage the patterns you learned growing up. Patterns of parenting are learned from watching your own parents. Different families parent differently. Some are more rigid, more permissive, or more critical than others. These differences can cause parenting conflicts if not negotiated. When you disagree, take a short break, talk through your strategies, and come to an agreement. You can say: “Mommy and Daddy are going to talk about this and come back.” Remember you are probably responding how you learned growing up. If you cannot pause before reacting, then talk about the conflict after the fact and agree on how you could both handle this in the future.

The important things are to be in agreement, be consistent, and realize this is an ongoing conversation. As children grow, the issues change and trigger issues from your childhood. Kids also tend to divide parents, so present a unified front to your child even if you disagree at the moment. Evaluate whether or not your approach to a problem was helpful and appropriate. Not all family patterns are healthy, so you may decide to make changes based on what you have learned.

If you cannot come to an agreement on how to parent as a couple, talk to another couple who can serve as your mentor or a family therapist or pastor.

Send us questions you would like to ask Dr. Mintle!