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How to Cope with Student Stress During the Holidays
posted by: Melissa | December 11, 2019, 04:19 PM   

Every educator I know wants the holidays to be a happy time. We go out of our way to fill the days leading up to the holiday break with fun, engaging lessons, moments of levity, and shared good cheer. When it’s time to send our students off for the year, we do so with a party and the belief that the down time will be one of relaxation and reinvigoration for all of us. The ugly truth is that for many of our students this is not so. Instead of a time of relaxation, the holidays can be one of stress and sadness for many, including our students.


The causes for a stressful holiday season can be many. For students who come from low-income homes, the holiday break can bring with it hunger, homelessness, or even just the disappointment of wishes left unfulfilled. Ruby Payne has written extensively about navigating parental relationships after a divorce and the stress poverty can bring to the holiday season. In some cases, students may be grieving the loss of a relative. Other more common causes of stress during the season include depression, tension over grades, and missed expectations.


While we should definitely continue to celebrate the season with our students, we should also be prepared to help support students who find December less than joyful. We can’t go to every student’s home and fix all of their problems, but we can help our students in other ways.


The best place to start is by researching what the experts have to say. The International OCD Foundation has provided some general guidance on their Anxiety in the Classroom website. The Association of Middle Level Education has a short guide for helping Middle School students through the holiday season. Although geared for middle school educators, we feel this is an excellent resource for educators of all grade levels.


Additionally, it’s important to remember the same techniques that help us, help our students as well. During the holiday season it is very tempting to throw structure out the window, but structure and routines can help mitigate stressful situations. Just as you don’t like it when your routine is thrown into chaos, neither does the student who returns to a chaotic home each day. Nor does the holiday season mean we should abandon rules. For many children, knowing that loving adults care about what they do is a comfort that can help alleviate stress.


Exercise and physical activity have also proven to help in stress management. Students with extra energy to release while snow and cold keep them inside need a structured and positive way to expend that energy. Now is the time of year to incorporate more activity into your lessons and to allow a bit more free time.


Most importantly, model the attitude you wish to see. You’re likely stressed yourself this season, between preparing for the holidays with your students, squeezing in that last bit of learning before the holidays, and prepping for your own family’s celebrations, however, if you bring that stress into the classroom, your students will pick up on it subconsciously. Knowing that the adults around them are overwhelmed will only feed their own feeling of being overwhelmed. So, take some time for self-care. It won’t only help you, it will help your students.


How do you deal with stress in your classroom?

Share below!


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