‘Tis the season to be merry, but the holidays can also bring anxiety and stress. Students feel the pressure just as much as adults, and they often benefit from extra encouragement and help this time of year. Support students through the holidays and the long winter break with social and emotional learning (SEL).

Here are five ways to leverage SEL to help students have a happier holiday season and improve their social and emotional well-being.

  1. Manage stress. Stress and anxiety often increase around the holidays. Plan extra activities that remind students of healthy ways to cope with holiday stress.

Activity: Students can use these 10 stress-relieving tactics to manage stress during the holidays — and throughout the rest of the year.

  1. Encourage students to get active in the community. There are many ways to get involved in the community during the holidays. Help students increase their social engagement and build valuable relationship skills by offering ways to get involved in community, religious, or other social events. Volunteering can bring a sense of fulfillment and pride, and it can help students make new friends and establish a sense of belonging.

Activity: Read this article for community service ideas for kids of all ages.

  1. Acknowledge feelings. The holidays can be tough — especially for students dealing with stressful family situations, who live in poverty, or have lost loved ones around this time. Taking the time to talk about students’ feelings helps them work through problems, can make them feel valued, and promotes healthy communication.

 Activity: Carve out class time to talk about how some people might not feel joy during the holidays. Have students reflect on why the holidays might be stressful or unhappy for some. As a group, brainstorm ways students can support those who struggle this time of year.

  1. Focus on relationship-building. For many, the holidays are about getting together with friends and family. But personalities sometimes clash and create challenging group dynamics. Before the holidays, plan classroom activities that teach students to accept one another’s differences, practice conflict resolution, and increase cooperation.

Activity: “Fish Bowl” is a fun activity for teaching conflict resolution. Have students write down conflicts they see in the classroom on a paper fish. Put all of the fish into a glass fish bowl (or vase). Then take turns selecting fish and brainstorm ways to resolve the issues as a group. 

  1. Plan a class party. The holidays are a time for celebration. You and your students deserve a reward after a busy fall semester. Throw a class party to thank students for their hard work and spread holiday cheer.

Activity: Plan fun games and pick up inexpensive prizes at the dollar store. Make the party even more special by having a potluck or hosting a local food truck.

While many students and teachers welcome the holiday season and the break it brings after a busy fall, winter vacation isn’t always so merry for some. There are many ways you can support these students during winter break using SEL.

Check out our Holiday SEL Guide for even more tips, activities, and resources to ensure that students have the support they need this season. You also can contact us to learn more about how social and emotional learning can support students throughout the holidays and the long winter break.