The Holiday Season is a time for spiritual appreciation and fellowship with friends and family. Unfortunately, popular culture is transforming the Holiday Season into a yearly occurrence of heightened consumerism. The pressure to purchase and give seems to be increasing with each year that passes.
This Holiday Season, I have been encouraged to reflect upon how these pressures impact the high school students I teach. I work at a school with an economically disadvantaged population of approximately 65%. This means 65% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunches because their family income is near or below the poverty level. I also have students whose families are considered homeless. Fortunately, these families have shelter and working parents; unfortunately, they are unable to pay for their own residences due to circumstances.
My principal communicated to the faculty the need to have an increased awareness for “acting out” behaviors from our students during the Holiday Season. I understand how a disadvantaged teen would feel highly frustrated during this time of year. Teens are highly self-conscious and have a growing awareness of their circumstances compared to younger children. Younger children tend to only “know what they know.” Their world is very much parent centered and controlled; in many ways, this is beneficial in limiting influences, yet is harmful if the child has abusive parents. On the other hand, teens are beginning to realize there is a much bigger world out there. However, their ability to immediately improve their situations may be limited due to age and maturity. The constant cycle of ads on television, radio, and online can impact impressionable minds. Obviously, this leads to feelings of helplessness and frustration, resulting in certain moods and behaviors. I’m sure we have a number of students who look forward to the holidays being over and returning to the routine of school. Those of us who interact with youth need to have a heightened awareness for these issues during this time of year and be a light.