Rest. Restore. Refuel.
The holiday season, including weeks where your son is not in school, is an opportunity to listen for clues indicating that he needs help with mental health concerns. Being even more attentive or intentional during these “breaks” is also great practice for when your son leaves home for pursuits after high school and returns home for holiday gatherings. Holidays are a golden opportunity to take notice.
Be intentional about sitting for at least some family meals during this time “off.” This might take the form of inviting your son out to eat (or take-out at home) for 1:1 date together. Aim to make it a screen-free meal(s). The way your son responds to your questions of curiosity may be an indicator that something is off. While eating together is a way to refuel nutritionally, it is also a way to show your son that you, too, are slowing down for some rest with him. Even if he seems uninterested in stopping to eat a meal together, he is noticing this act of care.
If you are noticing any of the following signs, at a separate time bring up your observations to him. Do it at a time when you are feeling calm, to avoid judging, scolding or criticizing.
- Responses seem flat, expressionless, or lack visible emotion.
- Signs of irritability, anger, or weepiness when responding to questions.
- No mention of any friends or extracurricular activities.
- Withdrawing or avoiding the meal when you have extended this invitation.
- Conversations with younger siblings/relatives focus on partying.
Depending on his reaction to your observations, you can make a plan of support. Vehicles of support may include checking in with his pediatrician/primary care doctor, touching base with an established therapist or psychiatrist, or checking in with his counselor here at Jesuit as the new semester begins.
Taking this opportunity to connect, especially over the “busy season” of the holidays, helps show your son how to avoid isolation and to stay connected. If you as a parent are feeling sad, for example, appropriately share how you are honoring this emotion while also staying in gratitude for the present. Demonstrating how you can be both in this example teaches your son resilience.