Everyone wants the holiday season to be a happy time, but stress, financial constraints and memories of loved ones who have passed away can trigger holiday blues. In a survey by the National Alliance on Mental Health, 64 percent of people interviewed reported suffering from the holiday blues.

Children are not immune to these feelings. Some of the same things that trigger the holiday blues in adults – such as fatigue, heightened expectations and grief – can lead to sadness in children, as well. Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, who specializes in anxiety and depression, told Today.com that holiday blues can be contagious.

“If you are feeling down or depressed and don’t do a great job of managing [your adult] emotions, a child is certainly more likely to feel that way too,” said Dr. Ramsey. This is one important reason parents and caregivers should take steps to remain emotionally and physically healthy during the holidays.

Feeling down or stressed can make it harder for caregivers to provide the emotional support required to maintain nurturing relationships with children in their care. To foster healthy emotional development, caregivers need to show consistent affection and support, express interest in children’s daily activities, and provide comfort in times of stress, according to the Missouri Department of Mental Health. For young children, bonds with their caregiver have a direct impact on their brain health and their ability to self-regulate their behavior and cooperate, according to Lucy Daniels Center, an organization that provides mental health services to children and families in Raleigh, and an organizational member of The Kaleidoscope Project Steering Committee.

Although many people suffer from holiday blues, there are things families can do to make this time of year easier and more fun. Here are some recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Alliance on Mental Health to help caregivers and their children avoid the holiday blues.

  • Stick with routines. December may be the busiest time of the year, and tired, hungry kids, caregivers and parents are not going to feel very jolly. Adhere to schedules when you can. It may reduce stress and help you all enjoy the holidays more.
  • Take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. That can include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, not overeating and making time to exercise – even if it is only a short walk around the block.
  • Give to others. Help your child write a letter to members of the armed forces stationed abroad who can't be home with their own family during the holidays. Make it an annual tradition to share your time and talents with others. For example, serve a holiday meal at a food bank or sing at a local nursing home.
  • Don’t say yes to everything. Set reasonable goals and expectations for the holidays including sending cards, visiting family and friends, cooking, shopping, attending parties and hosting events.