By Teachers, For Teachers
For most people, the holidays are a time of excitement and happiness. It’s a time to enjoy family and friends and revisit old memories. However, during these fun holiday festivities stress can also creep into our lives. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season doesn’t only affect adults, but it can also affect children. Recognizing that the holidays can lead to stressful reactions and situations can help to avoid some significant classroom meltdowns. Here are a few things that you can do to help students deal with the holiday stress.
Entertaining out-of-town guests and the pressures of money can make it a stressful time of year for adults, but the holidays can also be a stressful time for many children. Managing special needs, coming from poverty, and missing family members due to death or divorce are just some of the reasons why the holidays can be so stressful for children. The holidays may also mean dealing with family members who are violent, sad, or struggling with substance abuse. It’s important to be mindful that every student’s situation is different, and the best thing that you can do as a teacher is to be available to talk if a student needs to.
Breathing methods, yoga, practicing mindfulness, mental imaging, and journaling are all stress reduction techniques that help the body and mind relax. According to Harvard Health Publishing, practicing relaxation techniques such as these can provide a reserve of inner calm. All you need to do for students to reap the benefits is to take a few minutes out of class time to teach students these techniques. It can be as easy as having students close their eyes and count as they breathe or listening to a meditation or guided imagery app. Experts recommend teaching students a variety of methods so they can choose which best works for them.
Students thrive on routine, so when the holidays arrive and a student’s routine is altered by assemblies or classroom parties, your classroom may get chaotic. While it’s okay to break from your routine at times like this, it’s also essential to try and stick to your routine as much as you can. For example, many middle schools shorten their class periods when there is a half-day of school or a school assembly instead of eliminating a subject, because this small change in the schedule isn’t too disruptive for the students. If there is going to be a change in routine, make sure to give your students a heads-up beforehand.
A great stress-reliever during the holiday season is to give your students’ brains a break. Psychology Today rounded up some of the research on brain breaks and found that brief movement breaks are essential for your physical and emotional health. Stretching, yoga, or any movement for that matter will help to increase productivity and creativity. If you’re looking for a quick way to relieve some of the holiday stress in your classroom, take the time to incorporate some movement or exercise. Older students can stand and stretch or do a yoga pose while younger students can follow along with the GoNoodle app.
The holiday season is an excellent time of year to get your students to think beyond themselves. Instead of asking students to donate canned goods or clothing for the homeless, have students take on a service project that makes them focus on others. Adopting a soldier, packing and sorting food at the local food bank, sponsoring a family for the holidays, or helping animals are all good deeds that will not only help others but will also help your students feel good. Plus, there’s the added benefit that volunteering has been known to relieve stress and improve self-esteem as well.
It’s important to keep in mind that not every child’s holiday is going to be filled with love and gratitude. Try to be sensitive to those who may be going through a stressful holiday season. The best thing that you can do for a student who is dealing with stress during the holidays is be there for them, give them stress-relieving techniques and brain breaks, and try to keep your routine as close to normal as possible. If you do all of these things, then it will make it that much easier on the student.
Janelle holds an MS in Education.