two young children smiling as festive confetti falls down around them

Social-Emotional Learning During the Holidays

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Social-emotional learning is important every day of the year, but it’s especially important during the holidays when schedules are different, unfamiliar people are around, and/or travel is involved. The holiday season often includes at least one of those instances for families, if not more. These changes can add new stress and emotions in children and adults and make the holiday season somewhat overwhelming. Around the holidays, everything happens so quickly, which can make it even more difficult for children to identify how they’re feeling at the moment.

Here are 4 ways you can promote social-emotional learning to help children prepare for the busy holiday season:

1. Involve children in holiday plans.
Let your children know the schedule for the holidays and try to prepare them the night before big events. If they know where they are going and who they are seeing, it can help ease their mind when these events happen.

A fun way to prepare for the holidays is to make a family calendar. On your calendar you can include a countdown to a big holiday, parties or events, travel, and anything else that might be different from your usual day-to-day activities. Allow children to bring in their creative side and decorate the calendar as a family. Find a common space to display your calendar and cross off days after they happen so everyone knows what‘s happening next.

Let your children know what they’re wearing. Do they have a special outfit for the holidays? A special outfit might not seem like a big deal to adults, but to a child this can be a bit overwhelming, and they might push back on wearing something new. To help your children feel more comfortable, invite them to choose an accessory that can go with their special outfit.

2. Check in with your children!
Before, during, and after events make sure to ask your little ones how they’re feeling. In the morning, take some time to remind your little ones about the plans for the day—you can reference the holiday calendar you made. Who are they going to see? How long will they be away from home? This simple check-in can help ease their mind for the busy day ahead.

If children are unsure about going somewhere unfamiliar, let them pick a special game or toy to bring with them. Familiar toys can be very comforting to children and help to provide them with a sense of security. If other children are there, make sure they bring something they can share. A great sharing toy is hand2mind's Feelings Family™ Hand Puppets. Children can work together to put on a puppet show! These relatable hand puppets can help children foster relationships, build connections, and engage with their feelings.

Touch base with your children during the day or while at parties with other people. Check their body language—does it seem the same or different from more typical days? Ask them how they’re feeling and provide comfort in moments of uncertainty. A great tool for this is hand2mind's Express Your Feelings™ Journal. Children can choose an emotion and work through activities that help them cope with and understand that emotion.

Before bed or in the car on the way home, talk about how the big day made your children feel. A great way to get children to talk about their feelings is asking what their favorite and least favorite thing that happened that day was. If they struggle to think of their favorite thing, remind them of a few fun things you witnessed. They might not have a least favorite thing that happened and that’s ok! This simple activity will help children learn to take time to be mindful and reflect on their day.

3. Balance festivities with quiet time.
Holidays are full of bright lights, new decorations, loud music, people, and sometimes new food. All these things can be overstimulating for children (and adults). Do your best to keep track of what they’re eating to make sure they eat enough. Eating new food can be overwhelming for children. If you’re going to an unfamiliar place for a meal, allow children to choose the foods they want to try. Having options can give them a sense of control, and they might be more willing to try new foods.

Make sure to schedule some quiet time as a family or for your children to have alone time. Schedule a family movie night with a familiar movie or have a calm family game night. A great game to get children talking about their emotions is hand2mind's Express Your Feelings™ Memory Match Game. This interactive memory game can help children start identifying and talking about their feelings in a natural way.

4. Schedule time for PLAY!
Children often get many gifts around the holidays but don’t have time to play with them due to busy schedules. Play is an essential way for children to calm their bodies and learn new things. Make sure to schedule as much playtime as possible! Children will be excited to play with their new toys and this can help alleviate some of the holiday stress they might be experiencing.


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