As a supervisor and colleague, I have worked with individuals who find holidays difficult, and have learned different ways to support them through my experiences at Seneca. Some ideas include:
- Remain curious and ask questions. Don’t assume that everyone is excited for the holidays and break. Ask questions about how one is feeling about the upcoming holidays. By remaining curious, we can find out a lot about others, their experiences and feelings in order to support them better.
- Check in more frequently. I worked with an individual whose family member passed away during the holidays, and the holidays became a reminder of their grief and loss. I asked what I could do to support and they responded that more frequent check ins are helpful. Small gestures of “I’m thinking about you” and “How are you doing?” go a long way. Send short texts, emails or even a call to let people know you’re there and you care.
- Anticipate that your colleagues may have hard days during the holidays, and be prepared to support them at work by switching out with them if they need a break, encouraging them to share with their supervisor how they are feeling and encouraging them to take time off and prioritize self-care.
- OptionB, a non-profit organization designed to provide support to those facing adversity, has a page dedicated to providing support and resources to those who face difficulties during the holidays. They even have free e-cards you can send to those needing some additional support during this time of year.
Just like adults may struggle with the holidays, some of our students also have challenging experiences with this time of year. Some thoughts to support students include:
- Be mindful of how we talk or ask about holidays to students. Avoid questions like “Are you excited for break?” Or “What fun things do you have planned to do?” We can rephrase to ask “What are your plans for break?” “How do you feel about the holidays/break?” Avoid using terms such as “mom” or “dad” and focus on more inclusive language such as “family,” “friends” and “people.”
- Avoid countdowns or comments in front of students about “I can’t wait for break” or “Only 4 more days...” Focus on the time you have with your students, and express that you will miss working with them over the break.
- Ensure assignments or activities are holiday sensitive and prompts don’t include questions such as “What was your favorite gift you received?” Or “Tell me three fun things you did over break.”
- Connect students or families that need additional support to resources ahead of the break. Work with your school team to ensure students have food over the breaks, access to organizations that could provide gifts, and places to go to for mental health support during the school break.
- Create a safe space for students to talk about the holidays and express their feelings. Check in with students who you know may struggle more during the holidays and have a plan to support them. Share with all students that everyone experiences holidays differently, and include ideas on how they can be more empathetic and supportive of their peers.
I appreciate the Seneca value of curiosity, and remaining open and interested in people and their experiences. We can learn so much about others and how we support them by asking questions and having an open mind. While it can be easy to assume that most people enjoy the holidays, we need to remember that staff and students alike have different experiences and try to incorporate small changes in order to provide a safer, more inclusive space during the holidays.