Go ahead and call me Scrooge, but I've never been a big fan of the holidays. Even as a child, I found the season brimming with pressure: Should I spend Christmas with my mom or with my dad? Would my father and step-mother fight about having Christmas with the grandparents? Will Grandma Cowen give my brother a trash can for Christmas again this year?
That last one is now a source of humor and jolly reminiscing for my brother and me, but at the time, it wasn't very amusing to a twelve-year-old boy.
Finding the perfect gift and negotiating the mall rush seems a trite concern when we consider that many of our students live lives more similar to those of Tiny Tim in Dickens's A Christmas Carol than Macaulay Culkin's character in Home Alone.
During the holidays, many suffer increased levels of stress, depression, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and substance abuse.
Paradise High School in Paradise, California offers a helpful list of behaviors that may signal a child in distress and in need of some extra care during the holidays:
- A change in habits (sleeping, eating, studying, activity level)
- Marked personality change
- Start, return to, or increase in drug or alcohol abuse
- Cutting off friendships
- Expressing "I don't care" attitude
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Isolating from loved ones and friends
- Talk about hurting themselves
- Unusual neglect of personal appearance
- Giving away prized possessions or throwing away important belongings
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Frequent complaints about physical symptoms (fatigue, headache, stomach upset, etc.)