Believe it or not—just like adults—young people experience the holidays in vastly different ways. Some look forward to them with an unrivaled anticipation, whereas others can find this time of year isolating and emotionally challenging....a time to avoid and be fearful of.
There are many reasons why the holidays can be a sensitive time for young people. Most things having to do with "family" are emotionally charged. Family time can be a source of great love, support, and connection. But it can also be a tense time when hostilities, anger, and even aggression can rise to the surface. For young people, watching their families fight, or simply observing the strained dynamics of family relationships played out, can be very scary. Throw in a little holiday drinking, and we all know what can happen.
Potential challenges with peers exist as well. Whether it’s the jealousy one can experience around the disparity between the size and amount of gifts received, which are often determined by financial matters, or pressures to participate and be festive during social activities, the holidays can be an uncomfortable and anxiety filled time.
I recently shared with my daughter, who is nine, that she should be sensitive about how she tells her friends about her Chanukah presents. There is no reason that she shouldn’t be able to share her excitement, but it is important for her to understand that how she shares it should be a conscious choice made with sensitivity to those she is sharing with.
Helping our children become good choice makers: to understand the power of their words and choices, is one of the most important things we can do as adults. The holidays are just another opportunity for us to support our children in learning about the true power of their choices. Empathy, gratitude and love are the qualities to emphasize as we move through the holidays and into the New Year.
One thing that can and should be celebrated is the diversity of experiences being had around the holidays. Here in America there are a countless ways that the holidays are celebrated. Depending upon one’s religion, family, culture, and rituals—from the places we go, to the foods that we eat—each family has it’s own, deeply personal, way of observing during the holiday season. And each family has innumerable meanings they ascribe to the rituals and practices they do or don’t participate in.
So if you happen to be someone who loves the holidays and all that they bring, lucky you. But try to be extra sensitive to the idea that not everyone may feel as you do.
- Eric Komoroff
RELATED FROM AROUND THE WEB