Sunday, 25 February 2024

Putting Students First: Sometimes, holidays are hard

Dr. Nicki Thomas. Courtesy photo.

As the holiday season approaches, excitement and anticipation are in the air. Festive decorations fill the streets and stores. We’re bombarded with images of beautifully wrapped gifts, freshly baked cookies, and advertisements for every new gadget under the sun.

But for some, rather than a time of joy and celebration, the holidays can bring up complex emotions like grief, loneliness, financial stress, and unmet expectations. These not-so-cheery aspects of the holidays are hard for adults, but even more so for kids, who may not have the experience and skills to handle hard situations.

Curious children not only compare gifts, but traditions and celebrations as well. In our community Winter Break is often synonymous with Christmas Break — but it’s important to remember it’s not the only holiday celebrated.

Isolation

A big part of school is finding your crowd — the people who make you feel like you belong. The holidays can put a wedge between people, making them feel lonely or inferior. Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Wedge. Not everyone can afford the newest tech or fashion. Wedge. Not everyone is excited to spend time at home. Wedge.

And, anytime there’s a break from school, some students will lose more than just classroom instruction — they’ll miss the free meals that keep them fed, the social interactions that bring them joy, and the care of trusted adults at school who make them feel safe and seen.

There’s just no getting around it–the holidays can magnify stress, which feels so much worse with holiday carols playing in the background. Here are some issues to consider with ideas on how you might reduce the emotional challenges that can accompany this time of year.

Grief

One of the most difficult aspects of the holidays is navigating loss. Whether the absence of a loved one is due to death, divorce, or simply a change in circumstances, the holidays can make that loss feel especially painful.

Although it’s hard, it’s important for parents to acknowledge these feelings in themselves and to encourage their children to express their grief rather than bottle it up. If you’re a parent of a Kelseville student and you believe your student needs extra support right now, please reach out to your school’s counselor to discuss options.

One idea to help reduce the pain of an absent loved one is to give yourself permission to create new traditions. Rather than trying to keep things the way they’ve always been, change things up.

Financial stress

Financial stress can also make the holidays harder. Not only are there higher expenses, there are also higher expectations. Between childcare, food, activities, and gifts, it can be hard to keep up. Then, when children come home asking for unaffordable gifts, parents can feel doubly sad.

Locally, Toys for Tots can provide assistance for families who are struggling financially. And if your child attends Kelseyville Elementary School or Mountain Vista Middle School, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s school counselor to request that your child be put on the staff gift tree. Every year Kelseyville Unified employees contribute to holiday gifts for students to make their season a little brighter.

Other options

The holidays come with many challenges, but there’s still so much joy to be experienced and memories to be made. So what can we do to make this season more enjoyable for parents and children?

It can be helpful to focus on experiences rather than “things,” such as spending quality time together playing games, volunteering, or going outdoors. Go for a walk or hike, play in the snow (if we get any), or come up with a scavenger hunt. If you’re having trouble thinking of new ideas, Google “free activities with kids” and pages of ideas will appear.

Here’s one I found: www.verywellfamily.com/absolutely-free-activities-for-kids-2997490.

Family activities can create precious memories without the need for extravagant spending.

One activity that is scientifically proven to improve people’s mental health is practicing gratitude.

Consider asking everyone in your family to make a list of the things they are most thankful for — right now and throughout the year.

Are your kids thankful for the way the family dog greets them each morning? Are they thankful for playing at the park? All those little things add up.

While the holidays can pose some challenges, they also offer an opportunity to teach kids resilience and how to find joy in everyday experiences.

Dr. Nicki Thomas is superintendent for the Kelseyville Unified School District.

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