Encouraging Growth Under Stress
I was all set to do a great unit on cooperation with my kindergarten students. They passed through some great work earlier in the semester with courage and determination and attention. It seemed so right. Then one day they came in bouncing way off the walls and the sequence of cooperative activities became a sequence of nagging and sitting kids out. “What happened to my great group of focused kids?”
It is the holiday season in school so I began to wonder why my kids are so acting the way that children under stress behave. Weird!! What is the stress that children feel during this season? I know that when anyone is under stress they regress to a previous stage so that is how I handle the situation. I take the pressure off the students and do things that require less focus. It is a temporary pain reliever; a tranquilizer.
I wish that I could say that this festive season was only positive for my students, but yesterday I had one group play a game that just two weeks ago they enjoyed in perfect harmony. Six children ended up crying and doing regressive behaviors like wanting to pull out of the game because it didn’t go their way. Is this really what Jesus had hoped for?
I don’t want to be critical of Christmas because, for most Christians, or even non-Christians living in a Christian country Christmas has a great way of bringing families together with a great deal of joy. I think that the stress that my students experience is based upon the idea that they are just going to get whatever material thing they ask for, so during the season when there is a lot of hype, they shift from finding their huge joy in play and activity, to the hope that some thing outside of themselves, is going to bring them joy which it may very well do for a few minutes at least.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against presents. Bring them on, but it seems pretty clear to me from this experience that when young people think that they are going to find huge joy in material things, that they become stressed and then stop learning at an accelerated rate. It seems to me also, that they function better and learn more when the activities themselves are the reward and gifts are given in moderation.
So I think that the idea of Christmas should be to keep the gifts simple and have a great time with the activities so that children become a lot less stressed.