Supporting Students Through Winter Break: Planning for Pre-Break Anxiety and a Positive Post-Break Transition

December 6, 2022
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As we approach the end of the calendar year, we often assume that educators and students, alike, are eager for and excited about the days off over winter break. We longingly imagine the time for rest and relaxation. We anticipate spending time connecting with friends and family in a warm and cozy home. We look forward to finding ways to recharge with downtime before the coming semester. 

Unfortunately, not all students have home environments that match this ideal. Not all homes are welcoming, safe, and joyful. Not all family time is peaceful and nurturing, especially during the sometimes stressful holiday season. Not all refrigerators and pantries are filled with ample snacks and ingredients for filling, nutritious meals. Breaks for these students are worrisome rather than restorative. 

For many students, schools offer a sense of calm and provide support from caring adults, food security, and predictable routines. The absence of this support during breaks from school can mean that that time away feels stressful, lonely, and overwhelming. Many students in these situations anticipate breaks with worry or fear and might struggle with the contrast between home and school as they return in the new year.  

Counselors can support students before and after the break to help ensure there is a place for them to share their feelings and ask for help. They can provide information to help students and families access resources. And, they can work with the school staff so that the entire team of educators at a school understand these complicated dynamics and know how to best support students and families.

Check In with Students & Help Teachers Understand 

Counselors might be aware of students and families who need additional support heading into the winter break. They can take time to check in with these students to see how they are doing. They can look for ways to connect with them to fortify channels of communication. They can initiate conversations to help identify potential challenges or needs during the time away from school. Or, they can simply share words of encouragement and validation so the students know that they are seen, valued, and have someone at school who cares about them.   

Counselors might also take time to remind teachers to be sensitive when talking about winter break and help educate them about how these feelings of anxiety might manifest in the classroom, hallways, or on sports fields. For some students, anxiety creates headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or has other physical symptoms. For others, anxiety can lead to increased irritability and changes to behavior. For some, anxiety can look like perfectionism, and, for others, it can look like refusal to do work. When educators are reminded to look at changes to students’ feelings and behaviors through the lens of anxiety and overall mental health, it can help them to more quickly identify the root cause of the issue and productively find ways to offer help and support. Counselors might also remind teachers that, given the differences in dynamics at home, homework might be particularly challenging over the break and add unnecessary stress. 

Curate a List of Local Resources for Students, Families, and Teachers

Many communities have myriad resources for support, especially during the winter holiday season. Counselors can put together a list of these local resources and include contact information so that students and families know who they can reach out to for assistance depending upon their needs. This list of resources might include local mental health services, food pantry locations, meal distribution schedules, library hours, and other community support organizations. They might also include reminders to students that the holidays can be hard and challenging and that many families face struggles during this time so that students experiencing these difficulties do not feel isolated or ashamed. 

This list of resources can also be shared with teachers as well as school and district office staff who may encounter students and families in need of additional support. They can be posted online or shared in district messaging, including on social media and emails. They can also be posted on the home page of a learning management system or other district websites. Not all students or families know when or if they will need help, so making the information widely accessible is the best way to ensure that everyone can access the support they need. 

Prepare for a Soft Landing Upon Return

For many students, the transition back to school after a long break can be particularly hard. Even if they are happy to be back, for some, the contrast between a lack of structure at home and the routines at school can feel jarring. Many will need a cushion as they re-acclimate to this structure and the expectations of school and process difficult experiences from home. 

Counselors and educators can help by taking time to re-establish both routines and relationships. On an individual level, they can check in with students who may have had a rough time away. At a classroom or school level, it may be helpful to take time for team-building activities or ice-breaker questions to help reconnect students to educators and one another as often happens at the beginning of the school year. Many students–even in high school–will require reminders about expectations and requirements. Ensuring that the return to school feels like a gentle on-ramp sets students up for success for the semester to come. 

As we approach the end of the calendar year, we often assume that educators and students, alike, are eager for and excited about the days off over winter break. We longingly imagine the time for rest and relaxation. We anticipate spending time connecting with friends and family in a warm and cozy home. We look forward to finding ways to recharge with downtime before the coming semester. 

Unfortunately, not all students have home environments that match this ideal. Not all homes are welcoming, safe, and joyful. Not all family time is peaceful and nurturing, especially during the sometimes stressful holiday season. Not all refrigerators and pantries are filled with ample snacks and ingredients for filling, nutritious meals. Breaks for these students are worrisome rather than restorative. 

For many students, schools offer a sense of calm and provide support from caring adults, food security, and predictable routines. The absence of this support during breaks from school can mean that that time away feels stressful, lonely, and overwhelming. Many students in these situations anticipate breaks with worry or fear and might struggle with the contrast between home and school as they return in the new year.  

Counselors can support students before and after the break to help ensure there is a place for them to share their feelings and ask for help. They can provide information to help students and families access resources. And, they can work with the school staff so that the entire team of educators at a school understand these complicated dynamics and know how to best support students and families.

Check In with Students & Help Teachers Understand 

Counselors might be aware of students and families who need additional support heading into the winter break. They can take time to check in with these students to see how they are doing. They can look for ways to connect with them to fortify channels of communication. They can initiate conversations to help identify potential challenges or needs during the time away from school. Or, they can simply share words of encouragement and validation so the students know that they are seen, valued, and have someone at school who cares about them.   

Counselors might also take time to remind teachers to be sensitive when talking about winter break and help educate them about how these feelings of anxiety might manifest in the classroom, hallways, or on sports fields. For some students, anxiety creates headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or has other physical symptoms. For others, anxiety can lead to increased irritability and changes to behavior. For some, anxiety can look like perfectionism, and, for others, it can look like refusal to do work. When educators are reminded to look at changes to students’ feelings and behaviors through the lens of anxiety and overall mental health, it can help them to more quickly identify the root cause of the issue and productively find ways to offer help and support. Counselors might also remind teachers that, given the differences in dynamics at home, homework might be particularly challenging over the break and add unnecessary stress. 

Curate a List of Local Resources for Students, Families, and Teachers

Many communities have myriad resources for support, especially during the winter holiday season. Counselors can put together a list of these local resources and include contact information so that students and families know who they can reach out to for assistance depending upon their needs. This list of resources might include local mental health services, food pantry locations, meal distribution schedules, library hours, and other community support organizations. They might also include reminders to students that the holidays can be hard and challenging and that many families face struggles during this time so that students experiencing these difficulties do not feel isolated or ashamed. 

This list of resources can also be shared with teachers as well as school and district office staff who may encounter students and families in need of additional support. They can be posted online or shared in district messaging, including on social media and emails. They can also be posted on the home page of a learning management system or other district websites. Not all students or families know when or if they will need help, so making the information widely accessible is the best way to ensure that everyone can access the support they need. 

Prepare for a Soft Landing Upon Return

For many students, the transition back to school after a long break can be particularly hard. Even if they are happy to be back, for some, the contrast between a lack of structure at home and the routines at school can feel jarring. Many will need a cushion as they re-acclimate to this structure and the expectations of school and process difficult experiences from home. 

Counselors and educators can help by taking time to re-establish both routines and relationships. On an individual level, they can check in with students who may have had a rough time away. At a classroom or school level, it may be helpful to take time for team-building activities or ice-breaker questions to help reconnect students to educators and one another as often happens at the beginning of the school year. Many students–even in high school–will require reminders about expectations and requirements. Ensuring that the return to school feels like a gentle on-ramp sets students up for success for the semester to come. 

As we approach the end of the calendar year, we often assume that educators and students, alike, are eager for and excited about the days off over winter break. We longingly imagine the time for rest and relaxation. We anticipate spending time connecting with friends and family in a warm and cozy home. We look forward to finding ways to recharge with downtime before the coming semester. 

Unfortunately, not all students have home environments that match this ideal. Not all homes are welcoming, safe, and joyful. Not all family time is peaceful and nurturing, especially during the sometimes stressful holiday season. Not all refrigerators and pantries are filled with ample snacks and ingredients for filling, nutritious meals. Breaks for these students are worrisome rather than restorative. 

For many students, schools offer a sense of calm and provide support from caring adults, food security, and predictable routines. The absence of this support during breaks from school can mean that that time away feels stressful, lonely, and overwhelming. Many students in these situations anticipate breaks with worry or fear and might struggle with the contrast between home and school as they return in the new year.  

Counselors can support students before and after the break to help ensure there is a place for them to share their feelings and ask for help. They can provide information to help students and families access resources. And, they can work with the school staff so that the entire team of educators at a school understand these complicated dynamics and know how to best support students and families.

Check In with Students & Help Teachers Understand 

Counselors might be aware of students and families who need additional support heading into the winter break. They can take time to check in with these students to see how they are doing. They can look for ways to connect with them to fortify channels of communication. They can initiate conversations to help identify potential challenges or needs during the time away from school. Or, they can simply share words of encouragement and validation so the students know that they are seen, valued, and have someone at school who cares about them.   

Counselors might also take time to remind teachers to be sensitive when talking about winter break and help educate them about how these feelings of anxiety might manifest in the classroom, hallways, or on sports fields. For some students, anxiety creates headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or has other physical symptoms. For others, anxiety can lead to increased irritability and changes to behavior. For some, anxiety can look like perfectionism, and, for others, it can look like refusal to do work. When educators are reminded to look at changes to students’ feelings and behaviors through the lens of anxiety and overall mental health, it can help them to more quickly identify the root cause of the issue and productively find ways to offer help and support. Counselors might also remind teachers that, given the differences in dynamics at home, homework might be particularly challenging over the break and add unnecessary stress. 

Curate a List of Local Resources for Students, Families, and Teachers

Many communities have myriad resources for support, especially during the winter holiday season. Counselors can put together a list of these local resources and include contact information so that students and families know who they can reach out to for assistance depending upon their needs. This list of resources might include local mental health services, food pantry locations, meal distribution schedules, library hours, and other community support organizations. They might also include reminders to students that the holidays can be hard and challenging and that many families face struggles during this time so that students experiencing these difficulties do not feel isolated or ashamed. 

This list of resources can also be shared with teachers as well as school and district office staff who may encounter students and families in need of additional support. They can be posted online or shared in district messaging, including on social media and emails. They can also be posted on the home page of a learning management system or other district websites. Not all students or families know when or if they will need help, so making the information widely accessible is the best way to ensure that everyone can access the support they need. 

Prepare for a Soft Landing Upon Return

For many students, the transition back to school after a long break can be particularly hard. Even if they are happy to be back, for some, the contrast between a lack of structure at home and the routines at school can feel jarring. Many will need a cushion as they re-acclimate to this structure and the expectations of school and process difficult experiences from home. 

Counselors and educators can help by taking time to re-establish both routines and relationships. On an individual level, they can check in with students who may have had a rough time away. At a classroom or school level, it may be helpful to take time for team-building activities or ice-breaker questions to help reconnect students to educators and one another as often happens at the beginning of the school year. Many students–even in high school–will require reminders about expectations and requirements. Ensuring that the return to school feels like a gentle on-ramp sets students up for success for the semester to come. 

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As we approach the end of the calendar year, we often assume that educators and students, alike, are eager for and excited about the days off over winter break. We longingly imagine the time for rest and relaxation. We anticipate spending time connecting with friends and family in a warm and cozy home. We look forward to finding ways to recharge with downtime before the coming semester. 

Unfortunately, not all students have home environments that match this ideal. Not all homes are welcoming, safe, and joyful. Not all family time is peaceful and nurturing, especially during the sometimes stressful holiday season. Not all refrigerators and pantries are filled with ample snacks and ingredients for filling, nutritious meals. Breaks for these students are worrisome rather than restorative. 

For many students, schools offer a sense of calm and provide support from caring adults, food security, and predictable routines. The absence of this support during breaks from school can mean that that time away feels stressful, lonely, and overwhelming. Many students in these situations anticipate breaks with worry or fear and might struggle with the contrast between home and school as they return in the new year.  

Counselors can support students before and after the break to help ensure there is a place for them to share their feelings and ask for help. They can provide information to help students and families access resources. And, they can work with the school staff so that the entire team of educators at a school understand these complicated dynamics and know how to best support students and families.

Check In with Students & Help Teachers Understand 

Counselors might be aware of students and families who need additional support heading into the winter break. They can take time to check in with these students to see how they are doing. They can look for ways to connect with them to fortify channels of communication. They can initiate conversations to help identify potential challenges or needs during the time away from school. Or, they can simply share words of encouragement and validation so the students know that they are seen, valued, and have someone at school who cares about them.   

Counselors might also take time to remind teachers to be sensitive when talking about winter break and help educate them about how these feelings of anxiety might manifest in the classroom, hallways, or on sports fields. For some students, anxiety creates headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or has other physical symptoms. For others, anxiety can lead to increased irritability and changes to behavior. For some, anxiety can look like perfectionism, and, for others, it can look like refusal to do work. When educators are reminded to look at changes to students’ feelings and behaviors through the lens of anxiety and overall mental health, it can help them to more quickly identify the root cause of the issue and productively find ways to offer help and support. Counselors might also remind teachers that, given the differences in dynamics at home, homework might be particularly challenging over the break and add unnecessary stress. 

Curate a List of Local Resources for Students, Families, and Teachers

Many communities have myriad resources for support, especially during the winter holiday season. Counselors can put together a list of these local resources and include contact information so that students and families know who they can reach out to for assistance depending upon their needs. This list of resources might include local mental health services, food pantry locations, meal distribution schedules, library hours, and other community support organizations. They might also include reminders to students that the holidays can be hard and challenging and that many families face struggles during this time so that students experiencing these difficulties do not feel isolated or ashamed. 

This list of resources can also be shared with teachers as well as school and district office staff who may encounter students and families in need of additional support. They can be posted online or shared in district messaging, including on social media and emails. They can also be posted on the home page of a learning management system or other district websites. Not all students or families know when or if they will need help, so making the information widely accessible is the best way to ensure that everyone can access the support they need. 

Prepare for a Soft Landing Upon Return

For many students, the transition back to school after a long break can be particularly hard. Even if they are happy to be back, for some, the contrast between a lack of structure at home and the routines at school can feel jarring. Many will need a cushion as they re-acclimate to this structure and the expectations of school and process difficult experiences from home. 

Counselors and educators can help by taking time to re-establish both routines and relationships. On an individual level, they can check in with students who may have had a rough time away. At a classroom or school level, it may be helpful to take time for team-building activities or ice-breaker questions to help reconnect students to educators and one another as often happens at the beginning of the school year. Many students–even in high school–will require reminders about expectations and requirements. Ensuring that the return to school feels like a gentle on-ramp sets students up for success for the semester to come. 

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As we approach the end of the calendar year, we often assume that educators and students, alike, are eager for and excited about the days off over winter break. We longingly imagine the time for rest and relaxation. We anticipate spending time connecting with friends and family in a warm and cozy home. We look forward to finding ways to recharge with downtime before the coming semester. 

Unfortunately, not all students have home environments that match this ideal. Not all homes are welcoming, safe, and joyful. Not all family time is peaceful and nurturing, especially during the sometimes stressful holiday season. Not all refrigerators and pantries are filled with ample snacks and ingredients for filling, nutritious meals. Breaks for these students are worrisome rather than restorative. 

For many students, schools offer a sense of calm and provide support from caring adults, food security, and predictable routines. The absence of this support during breaks from school can mean that that time away feels stressful, lonely, and overwhelming. Many students in these situations anticipate breaks with worry or fear and might struggle with the contrast between home and school as they return in the new year.  

Counselors can support students before and after the break to help ensure there is a place for them to share their feelings and ask for help. They can provide information to help students and families access resources. And, they can work with the school staff so that the entire team of educators at a school understand these complicated dynamics and know how to best support students and families.

Check In with Students & Help Teachers Understand 

Counselors might be aware of students and families who need additional support heading into the winter break. They can take time to check in with these students to see how they are doing. They can look for ways to connect with them to fortify channels of communication. They can initiate conversations to help identify potential challenges or needs during the time away from school. Or, they can simply share words of encouragement and validation so the students know that they are seen, valued, and have someone at school who cares about them.   

Counselors might also take time to remind teachers to be sensitive when talking about winter break and help educate them about how these feelings of anxiety might manifest in the classroom, hallways, or on sports fields. For some students, anxiety creates headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or has other physical symptoms. For others, anxiety can lead to increased irritability and changes to behavior. For some, anxiety can look like perfectionism, and, for others, it can look like refusal to do work. When educators are reminded to look at changes to students’ feelings and behaviors through the lens of anxiety and overall mental health, it can help them to more quickly identify the root cause of the issue and productively find ways to offer help and support. Counselors might also remind teachers that, given the differences in dynamics at home, homework might be particularly challenging over the break and add unnecessary stress. 

Curate a List of Local Resources for Students, Families, and Teachers

Many communities have myriad resources for support, especially during the winter holiday season. Counselors can put together a list of these local resources and include contact information so that students and families know who they can reach out to for assistance depending upon their needs. This list of resources might include local mental health services, food pantry locations, meal distribution schedules, library hours, and other community support organizations. They might also include reminders to students that the holidays can be hard and challenging and that many families face struggles during this time so that students experiencing these difficulties do not feel isolated or ashamed. 

This list of resources can also be shared with teachers as well as school and district office staff who may encounter students and families in need of additional support. They can be posted online or shared in district messaging, including on social media and emails. They can also be posted on the home page of a learning management system or other district websites. Not all students or families know when or if they will need help, so making the information widely accessible is the best way to ensure that everyone can access the support they need. 

Prepare for a Soft Landing Upon Return

For many students, the transition back to school after a long break can be particularly hard. Even if they are happy to be back, for some, the contrast between a lack of structure at home and the routines at school can feel jarring. Many will need a cushion as they re-acclimate to this structure and the expectations of school and process difficult experiences from home. 

Counselors and educators can help by taking time to re-establish both routines and relationships. On an individual level, they can check in with students who may have had a rough time away. At a classroom or school level, it may be helpful to take time for team-building activities or ice-breaker questions to help reconnect students to educators and one another as often happens at the beginning of the school year. Many students–even in high school–will require reminders about expectations and requirements. Ensuring that the return to school feels like a gentle on-ramp sets students up for success for the semester to come. 

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As we approach the end of the calendar year, we often assume that educators and students, alike, are eager for and excited about the days off over winter break. We longingly imagine the time for rest and relaxation. We anticipate spending time connecting with friends and family in a warm and cozy home. We look forward to finding ways to recharge with downtime before the coming semester. 

Unfortunately, not all students have home environments that match this ideal. Not all homes are welcoming, safe, and joyful. Not all family time is peaceful and nurturing, especially during the sometimes stressful holiday season. Not all refrigerators and pantries are filled with ample snacks and ingredients for filling, nutritious meals. Breaks for these students are worrisome rather than restorative. 

For many students, schools offer a sense of calm and provide support from caring adults, food security, and predictable routines. The absence of this support during breaks from school can mean that that time away feels stressful, lonely, and overwhelming. Many students in these situations anticipate breaks with worry or fear and might struggle with the contrast between home and school as they return in the new year.  

Counselors can support students before and after the break to help ensure there is a place for them to share their feelings and ask for help. They can provide information to help students and families access resources. And, they can work with the school staff so that the entire team of educators at a school understand these complicated dynamics and know how to best support students and families.

Check In with Students & Help Teachers Understand 

Counselors might be aware of students and families who need additional support heading into the winter break. They can take time to check in with these students to see how they are doing. They can look for ways to connect with them to fortify channels of communication. They can initiate conversations to help identify potential challenges or needs during the time away from school. Or, they can simply share words of encouragement and validation so the students know that they are seen, valued, and have someone at school who cares about them.   

Counselors might also take time to remind teachers to be sensitive when talking about winter break and help educate them about how these feelings of anxiety might manifest in the classroom, hallways, or on sports fields. For some students, anxiety creates headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, or has other physical symptoms. For others, anxiety can lead to increased irritability and changes to behavior. For some, anxiety can look like perfectionism, and, for others, it can look like refusal to do work. When educators are reminded to look at changes to students’ feelings and behaviors through the lens of anxiety and overall mental health, it can help them to more quickly identify the root cause of the issue and productively find ways to offer help and support. Counselors might also remind teachers that, given the differences in dynamics at home, homework might be particularly challenging over the break and add unnecessary stress. 

Curate a List of Local Resources for Students, Families, and Teachers

Many communities have myriad resources for support, especially during the winter holiday season. Counselors can put together a list of these local resources and include contact information so that students and families know who they can reach out to for assistance depending upon their needs. This list of resources might include local mental health services, food pantry locations, meal distribution schedules, library hours, and other community support organizations. They might also include reminders to students that the holidays can be hard and challenging and that many families face struggles during this time so that students experiencing these difficulties do not feel isolated or ashamed. 

This list of resources can also be shared with teachers as well as school and district office staff who may encounter students and families in need of additional support. They can be posted online or shared in district messaging, including on social media and emails. They can also be posted on the home page of a learning management system or other district websites. Not all students or families know when or if they will need help, so making the information widely accessible is the best way to ensure that everyone can access the support they need. 

Prepare for a Soft Landing Upon Return

For many students, the transition back to school after a long break can be particularly hard. Even if they are happy to be back, for some, the contrast between a lack of structure at home and the routines at school can feel jarring. Many will need a cushion as they re-acclimate to this structure and the expectations of school and process difficult experiences from home. 

Counselors and educators can help by taking time to re-establish both routines and relationships. On an individual level, they can check in with students who may have had a rough time away. At a classroom or school level, it may be helpful to take time for team-building activities or ice-breaker questions to help reconnect students to educators and one another as often happens at the beginning of the school year. Many students–even in high school–will require reminders about expectations and requirements. Ensuring that the return to school feels like a gentle on-ramp sets students up for success for the semester to come.