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Being Mindful of Student Trauma This Holiday Season

December 21, 2022

The holiday season is typically a time of celebration, family, and a sense of togetherness and belonging. However, for many students who have experienced trauma, this is not always the case. From poverty to food insecurities to displaced families to loss of family members, the reasons for triggering our students this time of year abound.

As our students prepare for winter break and they look toward leaving your classroom – a safe space for them – for two weeks, here are some tips from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Association of Secondary School Principals to support your students:

  • Maintain routines as much as possible for everyone. Schedules and routines tend to disappear during the holiday season, however, they can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Recognize and share what your students are grateful for this holiday season, including things they appreciate about their classroom community.
  • Let students talk about their feelings, what they are sad about, what makes them upset. Help validate the wide range of feelings that they may be feeling at this time of year.
  • Stay positive. Students who have experienced trauma often have low self-esteem and regularly look at themselves as the root cause of those bad things happening in their lives. Leave space for the time to listen to students, teach coping skills, and be mindful of school celebrations by pre-teaching changes.
  • Avoid sensory overload. Educators should avoid changes in lighting in their rooms and in the school, along with reducing the noise levels and limiting large group events to circumvent maladjusted behavior.
  • With COVID-19, the ways we celebrate and gather have changed. Help students understand why things may remain different this year. You may want to share that families may continue doing things differently because they want to keep everyone safe and healthy.
  • Connections are extremely important during the holiday season. Discuss how your students’ family will stay connected to friends and classmates. Activities like arranging Zoom calls, a traditional phone call to sing holiday songs, playing a round of Fortnite, or arranging playdates with classmates are all ways students can connect over the break.

This holiday season, the most important thing to recognize is that for many students, this time of year can trigger feelings of uncomfort, shame, disappointment, or anger. Keep routines consistent, be positive, and provide the space for them to share their feelings, should they choose. 

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