The holidays are stressful for everyone – there are so many things to do and remember! Children feel all of this, while also not having the best understanding of why we adults are rushing around and have a little less patience for them. It can be confusing and overwhelming, and it often leads to tantrums and meltdowns as they attempt to process changes to their schedules and routines – which only makes the adults around them even more stressed!
The classroom isn’t exempt from all of these feelings and stressors, but there are some ways that teachers can help children manage holiday stress, while still making sure the season is enjoyable. Here are some things that really make a difference:
1. Stick to your normal schedule. Kids crave stability, and they thrive on knowing what comes next. By this point in the year, most classrooms have found a pretty good groove, so changing things up will only add to the chaos. Incorporating all of the fun holiday activities into the schedule that students are already used to will help the days continue to run smoothly for teachers and children.
2. Keep the parties to a minimum. There’s something about the word “party” that makes children lose their minds. It’s still possible to do special things and enjoy the season without using that word that evokes a buzz of energy and lack of focus.
3. Monitor the extra sugar. Children often get a lot of holiday treats – it’s that time of year! While research shows that extra sugar doesn’t make kids hyper, we all know that too much sugar can have consequences. As adults we experience sugar crashes and stomach-aches, it’s understandable that children would struggle with these too. Keeping any snacks or extra foods in the classroom to a minimum, or at the very least the same that children are used to throughout the rest of the year, will mitigate these effects – at least during school hours.
4. Build extra down-time into your schedule. The holidays are busy for most families – special events, parties, rehearsals, religious services – and little ones are part of all of these. Since they’re getting less time to breathe at home, it makes a difference to give them that time during the day. This doesn’t have to mean that you stop teaching, but that you’re being intentional about how you work through certain concepts. Maybe more movement is what your class needs, or maybe it’s quiet one-on-one time. Use your intuition to really support your class.
5. Lean into the season. This time of year is meant to be enjoyed, and trying to ignore it completely will create friction. Every school has a different policy about how holidays are acknowledged. Even if your school doesn’t support traditional holidays, taking this time to explore seasonal themes that aren’t holiday related can really help make the most of the magic. Snow, snowmen, the winter season, traditional flavors and scents (peppermint, pine, cinnamon, etc.), light and dark, community service, and cold climates can all be excellent topics for exploration this time of year.
Get creative! The classroom can be a safe space during a really hectic time of year – and let’s be honest, we could all use a little calm, I hope these ideas will help you create that in your classroom.