The challenge for all of us during the Christmas season is to ensure we reserve time to be genuinely present with each other. All of us crave the recognition of our significance to others. Giving and receiving ‘stuff’ can reinforce our feelings of being loved and cared for only if the perceptions of belonging and being wanted and significant are in place.
We see that middle and high school students engage with Christmas differently than they did as little ones. Their desire for ‘stuff’ is as strong as ever, yet they are beginning to feel the inadequacy of getting just the right tech device or clothes to fill and really satisfy the deeper needs of their humanity. What adolescent does not want some material object, no matter how mature, compassionate and justice-minded they may be? For that matter, very few adults are without a yearning for some ‘thing’. We enjoy buying gifts for family and friends; there is great pleasure and fun in giving to those we care about.
For all of us, it is a season of heightened expectations and an increase in emotions, both positive and negative. Here at school, emotions are more evident and intensely expressed as we near the Christmas break. As teachers close out units of study, there is an increase in summative assessments, which causes stress. As students and teachers anticipate time off, they are challenged to be in the present, of really being with one another in an active and meaningful way. We see an increase in anxiety, sadness, and impulsivity among students. Emotional wavelengths are marked by higher spikes and lower dips.
Tis the season, the season of love, of family, of faith, of hope for peace, of joy, of anticipation…. This is such a beautiful time of the year – lighted trees, wrapped street lamps, and colorfully-lit houses, wrapped presents, nativity scenes, huge air-filled snow figures in yards, familiar carols, outdoor skating, snow and its offer of skiing and sledding, and the time away from school and work to enjoy all of the aforementioned.
It takes a bit of conscious effort to keep the importance of being present to others in the forefront of the excitement, rush, emotional pressure, and consumer stress of the Christmas holidays. May each of us do our best to carve out quiet moments for ourselves and our family in these coming weeks to allow for the nourishing experience of gratefulness and in-the-moment recognition of one another’s significance. It is so simple and yet can be extraordinarily elusive.