Everywhere I look in the hallways I see candy canes, Santa hats, and, for the most part…smiles. Students and teachers are focusing on getting through the last week before the holiday break. Secret Santas are delivering their goodies. Boys and girls are exchanging stuffed animals and chocolates. And BFFs are giving each other friendship jewelry. Overall there is a buzz of excitement and anticipation, if not for Christmas, at least for the holiday break from school.
But if you look closely, you will see a different layer of holiday emotions. Their reasons may vary, but the fact remains: Christmas = stress and anxiety, fear and guilt. Stress of worrying about mom and dad not being able to pay for the heating bill, let alone presents. Anxiety about being away from their friends and the only stable adults in their lives for two solid weeks. Fear of having to deal with abusive parents or broken homes. Guilt from wanting things to fit in with their friends, knowing that their parents really couldn’t afford the iPod they just bought them for Christmas. Not all Christmas stories are filled with joy, and not all homes are filled with love and safety for the holiday season.
Every teacher has those two or three kids that they take home with them every night. We discuss them with our significant others and share our worries, wishing we could do more. There are kids in each of our classrooms that dread the holiday break. The last message we want to send is that as the adults, we are just ready for a break from kids and that we do care about those students that have a less than ideal home situation. It is important that we let them know that we love them and that we are excited about seeing them in January when we return.
Here are three things you can do to send those students off with a sense of the true spirit of Christmas:
Old School Christmas Movie—I know it sounds cheesy, but trust me. Your local all-in-one department/grocery store carries discounted copies of holiday favorites on DVD. As much as they would never admit it in front of their friends, kids love a good holiday classic: Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, or It’s a Wonderful Life will suck them into the magic of the season. Especially with a personal recommendation from you.
Holiday Playlist— Give the gift of music. In the olden days we used to burn CDs. Now it is better to download your favorite music onto a USB flash drive. Include your favorite holiday music along with your favorite current hits that inspire positive choices. A little “Rocking around the Christmas Tree” combined with some “Brave” by Sarah Bareilles can give students just the right amount of lyrical balance to positive.
Personalized Christmas Card—Handwriting a note to a student offering advice, praise, and admiration can have a profound impact on adolescent students. Take a moment to personalize a card for those students that you know need a pick-me-up headed into the holiday break. Your favorite Dr. Seuss quote and a Merry Christmas message will give them something tangible to set on their dresser to help them if things get rough.