By Dr. Katie Jarnot
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
We want to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and wonderful holiday season. We live in an area that exemplifies the holiday spirit in the nature that surrounds us and the feeling of community among us. And because we live in this winter wonderland, the holiday season is also one of the busiest times of the year.
In our resort community, work schedules, the increased number of visitors to our valley, and the sometimes tricky weather can add to an already stressful time of year. It is essential that we look out for ourselves and each other.
Many of our schools provide presents for those in need through the Salvation Army or their own Giving Tree programs. Each year the school communities show tremendous generosity. At one elementary school, the gifts were so plentiful they covered not only the area around the tree but flowed into the main office. Staff who are lucky enough to deliver the gifts to families describe feeling overwhelmed with gratitude.
It can also be a challenging time for anyone dealing with grief. The hustle and bustle are fun, but if you have experienced a loss, whether the death of a loved one, a divorce, or another significant change, the holidays can be different.
Let’s be sure to also keep a watch out for anyone struggling with the holidays. They may have low energy, feel sad or angry, or want to skip right through to January. Celynn Kruger-McClarrinon, a certified grief recovery therapist, said, “Unfortunately, you can’t go over or under grief, you have to go through it.” She suggests that anyone dealing with grief allow themselves to experience joy and sadness, laughter, and pain. It is OK to laugh and have fun. It is also OK to feel down.
Allow kids to feel what they are feeling and make sure they know you love them and are here for them. Each child will be different. Siblings do not react in the same way, just like adults do not all react in the same way. Parents need patience — just be ready and be there.
While adults have the natural instinct to want to protect children and stop the hurt, they need to be allowed to feel what they need to feel and give them our undivided attention while they do so. Finally, know that professional help is available if you need it. Eagle Valley Behavioral Health offers a therapist finder (EagleValleyBH.org), which can be filtered by age, issue, gender, etc. There is always someone who can help.
Share your joy and love with those who have experienced a loss or are feeling overwhelmed during the holidays — bake an extra dozen cookies, drop off a card, ask them over for tea. Rather than saying, “Call me if you need something,” bring over some holiday treats and stay to listen.
If you are lucky enough not to have grief or stress impacting your holidays, make some room for those who do by listening, bringing them something helpful, or inviting them to go for a walk or to attend an event.
We live in one of the most beautiful holiday environments anywhere on the planet, but we must keep in mind that this time of year can be difficult. Let the most lasting gift we share be looking out for our own mental health, that of our children, and that of our friends and family. Happy Holidays.
Dr. Katie Jarnot is the assistant superintendent of Eagle County Schools. Email her at email@example.com.