It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. A time that is filled with excitement, to finally be finished another term and look forward to the Christmas holidays. Although Christmas is associated with happy thoughts for most, for some it can be a stressful time. Are there some simple steps we as Teachers can take in the classroom to try and elevate the stress?

It’s a time like no other where students compare themselves to others. This, of course, is more times than not, unintentional. How can you ask a child who is asking Santa for the newest Macbook not to share their excitement, to not put pressure on pupils who are not asking for such lavish gifts? The short answer is, you can’t. You can, however, on the run-up to the Christmas period, start conversations and lessons about how some are more fortunate than others.

An appeal that is widely known throughout Ireland is Team Hope’s Shoebox Appeal. The most amazing conversation starter in the classroom simply shows that some children around the world, don’t get presents unless we can lend a helping hand. An activity that can easily correlate to teaching that Christmas isn’t about what you receive, it’s about who thought of you and who you think of. You can read more on the Christmas Shoebox Appeal here.

Pressure comes in different forms in Secondary Schools, the race to Christmas exams is on and competition can often be fierce. Especially in State Exam classes where students have the pressure of these important exams and will be comparing their results to other students. The Christmas exams are often the last formal sit-down exams they have before their ‘Mocks’ or ‘Pre’s’. It's an important time for these students to unwind but also not too much as they run the risk of not being able to get back on track in the New Year. It's important that secondary school students understand that it is ok, in fact encouraged, to unwind after the first half of the school year is complete. Helping them in the classroom to devise a study timetable that allocates them time off as well as time dedicated to specific subjects can leave them feeling empowered, entering the Christmas period knowing what they have to do.

Technology over Christmas

As students unwind and relax over Christmas they will undoubtedly turn to devices to de-stress. Ironically, technology can be the biggest cause of stress for children and teenagers over this time. It has the potential to amplify negative or unhelpful thoughts and contribute to poor mental health. The main way it does this is by comparing and contrasting. In today's world Christmas Day is about opening presents, taking some pictures for Instagram to show friends what you got and while others are doing the same thing, we either consciously or subconsciously compare ourselves to others. This mentality can have a big strain on students' mental health. It's important to teach students that this outlook on life is superficial. Here are some quick lessons we can teach students to help them maintain their digital mental health over the Christmas period;

Study without a device for at least one subject on each study day.

Encourage students for just one subject not to depend on a screen. Students very quickly turn to google or a device to help them find the answer quicker. Most information can be found in textbooks, suggest them looking for the information there first before reaching for technology.

Stay off social media on Christmas Day.

Challenge students to stay away from social media on Christmas Day to avoid comparisons and stressing themselves. Stick to Christmas movies and family time. If we don't switch off our distractions we will never be able to fully focus on our main Christmas priorities which are our families and our delicious Christmas Dinner.

Turn off the notification sounds.

Similar to the phrase 'out of sight out of mind', if we remove the distractions of the noise of notifications we will be less likely to reach for the phone and start scrolling.

Teach them about being safe online.

There is no time of the year where students should not be practising safe online activities, but over Christmas with schools closed there is more opportunity for cyberbullying, inappropriate behaviour and content.

Some of these simple conversation starters could be hugely beneficial to students over the Christmas period. Leaving them to enter their time off with a positive mental attitude that will lead to a positive digital mindset coming into the New Year.

Internet Safety Seminars

We all understand the importance of devices, technology and the internet in our everyday lives. We know how heavily we lean on the internet and those associated devices at times where we don't have a huge amount on our plates. We want our children to be as safe as possible at these times. 

 Zeeko Education provides Internet Safety training both virtually and on-site to suit every school’s needs. Read more on our seminars here or forward this link to your child's teacher. Teachers can sign up for our Monthly Teachers Newsletter here. Don't forget to sign up for our Parents Blog List here.