It’s that time of year again… the last of the pumpkin spice lattes are being served and the air is filled with peppermint everything at the local coffee shops. There’s an added pep in every step, smiles are shared amongst strangers, and you are determined to sing “Santa Baby” better than ever.
It’s my favorite part of the year! Creativity at school sites is at an all-time high and program coordinators are excited about the different activities that will surely outshine everyone else’s. Seriously, who doesn’t want to be highlighted on their school district’s website?
However, as exciting as the holiday season is, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that some of our students and their families are under more stress than ever during this time. Many students served in after-school programs are from low-income communities that are challenged every day. These are communities in which families work incredibly hard to make ends meet on a regular basis. It’s important for our programs to provide activities and resources that will alleviate the stresses of having to make additional purchases that often can’t be afforded.
Making jewelry for a loved one and wrapping it is something students enjoy doing. There are so many things that can be created with your students. An activity that we’re doing in our programs is putting together spice sampler sets. Test tubes full of common spices are wonderful to have and gift. Making fragrant soaps and candles, glitter globes, and fun slime or playdough are just some of the most popular gift/activity ideas amongst our students. These are all items that are easily made and can be gift wrapped for a family member. The sense of pride that comes over students when they create these items is beautiful. Our only request to them is that they make these items for loved ones and one for themselves.
Ensuring resources for families and their community is also important to keep in mind. It’s essential that families have the resources they need to be able to provide for their children.
Working with local food banks is so incredibly important. In some communities, food banks have truck stations filled with free produce that is distributed on a weekly basis. Contacting them and receiving a complete list of services offered can be incredibly valuable to a family in need.
Another wonderful resource can be your County Health Services Department. The health and nutrition department has a long list of resources that can help families in need year round.
Our program shares a comprehensive list of resources as well as easy, inexpensive, and healthy recipes with our students, families, and community. These resources are shared throughout the year with an emphasis during the holidays.
As important as our youth and their families are, it’s also very important that we as a staff take time to rest and heal our bodies from the stresses of the first part of the year. Spending time with our loved ones, or sleeping in a little more, can be exactly what we need to prepare ourselves for the second and sometimes most demanding part of the year. The longer months await us, and in order to provide the very best program, we must take care of ourselves. After all, we have many who are counting on us to do that.
So go ahead and learn every lyric to “Santa Baby,” smile at complete strangers, volunteer at your local food bank or shelter, drink a peppermint hot chocolate, snuggle with your kids, pets, or imaginary friends. Enjoy your holiday break and remember you are changing lives.
For breakfast, I had a slice of peanut butter toast, banana, and drink of the sanity gods… coffee.