Happy new year! As families return to their routines after the winter break, many of us are already glancing longingly at our calendars and beginning the long countdown to Spring Break. Cold wet weather, shorter daylight, and post-holiday letdown can all contribute to that sluggish feeling of “winter blues.” It’s common for children and parents alike to feel less energetic, unmotivated, and to hunker at home. Research shows that twice-exceptional learners, such as those with ADHD and/or anxiety, might be especially vulnerable to this winter slump.
Health care professionals recommend self-care techniques for this sluggish time such as getting outside, exercising, trying new activities, and engaging with family. We have incorporated these ideas into several practical ideas that our own families have enjoyed to beat these blues while waiting for longer, warmer days to rejuvenate us once again. Making space for more family engagement also provides that emotional comfort and support that all children crave, particularly if school or friendships are challenging.
Go take a hike. The most common tips to combat the winter blues are to take in some natural sunlight and to exercise. Family hikes do both and are also a wonderful way to explore new areas and learn more about the natural environment where we live. Alltrails.com is a helpful resource, describing popular area hikes in great detail including distance, elevation, trail condition (a must for strollers and bikes), views and historical sites, parking, and even whether we can bring the family pet along. There are 92 trails listed in the San Francisco area alone, sure to provide new exploration for even seasoned hikers. (Editor's note: read about the benefits of hiking from the perspective of a 2e student here!)
Do your hikers have a passion for rocks, minerals and fossils? Rockhounding is a popular interest amongst our curious learners. The American Federation of Mineralogical Societies (“AFMS”) hosts chapters of “Future Rockhounds of America” across the country, supporting youth in their rockhounding endeavors with field trips, badges, a “rock exchange,” and even a youth-led newsletter. Information for finding or starting your own youth program can be found at https://www.juniors.amfed.org. Happy hunting!
Geocaching is a popular problem-solving treasure hunt, using a compass and smartphone app that can be found at www.geocaching.com. Geocachers hide small trinket boxes, called caches, in trees and other hidden spots around communities, then upload the coordinates and clues into the app. Your family can then use the app to find cache locations near you. When you find the cache, fill out the enclosed log, then swap a trinket with your own dollar-store supply to leave for the next treasure hunter. Check out the app to see how close you are to hidden treasures. There are currently more than 2,000 caches hidden in and around Palo Alto right now!
One more great way to get outside is with a family field trip! For those in the Bay Area, winter months are a great time to view California’s northern elephant seals as they come ashore during their breeding season. Docent-led guided tours are offered daily through March 31 at the Año Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve. Online reservations are recommended, especially for weekends and holidays, through ReserveCalifornia or call 1-800-444-4445.
Cooperative games, where everyone has to work together, are especially beneficial for children who have competitive or perfectionistic anxiety or who have intense feelings about winning and losing. One of our family favorites is Pandemic, where four diseases threaten to eradicate the world, and your team of specialists must strategize together to save humanity. Another favorite for families with teens is Finders Seekers, a monthly subscription of challenging escape rooms. Each game’s puzzles take players on a journey through a different country, and the corresponding food suggestions and playlists set the mood for a family party on even the dreariest days!
The new year is a great time to settle into some new fiction! Our youngest readers will enjoy reading the adventures in Ty’s Travels, an “I Can Read” series written by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Niña Mata. Mid-grade fantasy fans will love reading about 13 year old Sikander Aziz who goes on adventures steeped in Mesopatamian mythology in Sarwat Chadda’s City of the Plague God and its newly released companion novel, Fury of the Dragon Goddess. Teens may get swept up by Tilly in Technicolor by Mazzy Eddings, when they meet Tilly and Oliver, the two neurodivergent protagonists in this joyful YA romance. These latter three novels are all available on Audible as well, enabling the entire family to enjoy together.
About the authors
Lisa Jobe and Cassandra Whetstone are family consultants, advocates, and educators. As co-founders of Sequoia Gifted and Creative, LLC, they support gifted and 2e families on their personalized learning journeys. Lisa and Cassandra are also both parents with profoundly gifted and twice exceptional learners. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.