Feeling stressed? It would not be surprising! During December, it’s hard to avoid the intensity of the holiday season – whether you celebrate or not. Psychologists tell us that anxiety can exist within systems of people, not just individuals, so that even if you are not particularly stressed out yourself, you can absorb the stress that’s in the environment. And so can children, of course, which makes a difficult situation in our classrooms.
The most important strategy to combat the holiday pressure is to recognize the extra stress and try not to let it take over the classroom. Children will have a lower tolerance for frustration, they will be triggered more easily, and you will likely have less patience. Here are some practical suggestions for having a peaceful, and hopefully productive holiday season in your classroom:
Holiday Stress Busters:
- Slow down. Leave extra time, especially for transitions which are likely to trigger conflict.
- Have group relaxation moments. Quiet the class down and lead the children through your favorite breathing exercises. Have them relax their shoulders and legs, and visualize a peaceful place. You don’t need more than a couple of minutes and this is especially effective first thing in the morning, right after lunch or recess, and before packing up at the end of the day.
- Observe your children for signs of agitation – nail biting, tapping, rocking, facial changes, etc. When you see this, try to redirect them for a minute or two by getting a drink of water, stretching, or just a pat on the back. Remember the acting out cycle and don’t let the agitation build with intensity and move to acceleration phase.
- Keep the daily schedule consistent, even though you may have to interrupt it with more assemblies, parties, visitors, etc.
- Monitor your own tone of voice. Smile frequently, even if you don’t feel like it, and keep an eye on the tension in your own body. Take more frequent breaks if you can. If you are working with another teacher, make an effort to give each other quick breaks throughout the day.
- Take the children outside. In northern climates, children get less time outside as we move through December. Their need to move, breathe fresh air, and feel the freedom of outdoor play is decreased just when the stress increases. Even though it might be getting cold, be sure to give the children time outside.
- Have some fun with your children! Plan some movement games, special story readings, creative art projects, or songs to build community and remind the children that school can also be joyful.
What other suggestions do you have for beating the stress of the holiday season?