Whether you do or don’t celebrate Christmas, it is difficult to escape the images of ‘the most wonderful time of year’. For many people it is an enjoyable break spent with our nearest and dearest, enjoying the festivities. However, for others, it can be a difficult time for a number of reasons. It’s important that we take time to consider others and how they might be feeling at this time of year, but also take time to look after ourselves and reach out for support if we are feeling low.
Christmas in the Media
As soon as November 1st arrives, Halloween decorations are swept off the shelves and we are plagued with Christmas ‘everything’ from how to buy the perfect present and how our homes should be decorated. Adverts and social media posts are hard to avoid and this can be difficult for those who don’t celebrate Christmas or whose Christmases are different from the images portrayed in the media.
Feeling the Pressure
People can face a lot of anxiety in the run up to the winter break. There are huge financial pressures due to the current cost of living crisis and this is increased over the winter break whether you do or don’t celebrate Christmas. If you do, there can be expectations over gift buying and decorations. For others it’s the rising cost of food and of seeing loved ones over the winter break that can cause additional stress.
There is an expectation to spend the winter break with our friends and family but for some, that can mean feeling forced into spending time with those that you’d rather avoid due to difficult or upsetting situations. This could be due to abuse or trauma or difficult relationships that put demands on your time but that might be upsetting for you.
Feeling Blue during Winter
For some, the winter can be the cause of much anxiety and loneliness due to the worsening weather. This can mean some struggle to get out and about as much as they’d like and socialising becomes very difficult. Our emotional wellbeing can take a hit over winter due to the lack of natural light – for some, this comes in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which causes feelings of lethargy and low mood that is usually associated with the seasonal change. For teachers in particular, the winter break can unfortunately be a juggle of trying to relax and trying to catch up with a long to-do list. If you need support over the break, please speak to someone close to you or check out Education Support, a charity supporting teachers’ mental health and wellbeing.
How can we support our students at this time of year?
It’s really important that we acknowledge that not everyone is celebrating Christmas and for those that are, we shouldn’t feel pressured to live up to expectations seen in the media.
Here some key things to consider in the last few weeks of school:
Traditions and Festivities
- Make time to raise awareness of winter holiday traditions for different cultures and faiths so that all students feel included and students are able to learn about what is important at this time of year for others.
- Remind students that what we see advertised on TV isn’t everyone’s reality and we are entitled to celebrate or not celebrate in any way we wish.
- Give students time to reflect on the past year and celebrate their successes with them.
- Allow them time to think about the year ahead and what this may bring.
Wellbeing and Support
- Encourage your students to consider their own wellbeing over the winter break as well as looking out for others. It’s important that students recognise that this can be a difficult time of year for some, and know how to look after their own mental health and wellbeing with good routines and seeking support if they need to.
- Encourage them to check in on others around them and to try not to put any extra pressure on their loved ones over the break.
- Speak to your students about how the important thing is spending time with those we want to spend time with and being healthy and happy.
- Make sure your students know where they can get extra support over the break whilst they’re not at school.
Support for you and your Students
- Education Support for educators 08000 562 561 www.educationsupport.org.uk
- Student Minds 0113 343 8440 www.studentminds.org.uk
- Childline 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk
- The Mix 0808 808 4994 www.themix.org.uk
- Mind UK 0300 123 3393 www.mind.org.uk
- The Trussell Trust 0808 208 2138 www.trusselltrust.org
Here are two 15 minute lessons that you can use in form time or assemblies to support your students with the messages above:
For further reading check out our other blogs Educating Young People on Love Bombing, and World Kindness Day: Promoting and Practicing Kindness.