How to honor those students who don't celebrate Christmas

For student's who don't celebrate Christmas in an environment where most of the children get to enjoy the full spectrum of holiday activities, this beautiful time of year can be stressful. If you don't pay attention to their unique situation, it is inevitable that they will start feeling alienated, deserted or singled out.

Here are several pieces of advice on how to successfully manage a situation when some of your students don't celebrate Christmas.

Talk to their parents or guardians and learn the limits

Talking to parents or guardians about how they perceive the holidays that they don't celebrate is the first thing to do.

Some parents or guardians don't object that their children participate in holiday activities and will take time to explain the difference between holidays they celebrate within their family, religion and community, and the holidays that other communities honor.

Other parents object their child's participation and would rather have their child to stay out of the holiday activities.

Both options are valid, just note that the latter case takes more preparation and pre-meditation. Never encourage a child to participate in activities that the family doesn't approve of since this will unavoidably create internal conflict within the student's mind, and possibly an external conflict as well.

Get thoughtful about Christmas events 

Individual schools and teachers have different policies and approach the case of Christmas events in various ways. Some schools treat all essentially religious holidays solely as a part of the educational curriculum, without actually celebrating them, while other schools celebrate and organize special Christmas events.

If your school does celebrate Christmas, and there is enough consideration on all sides, there is no need for some activities like Christmas plays to be limited. These activities can always be adapted to be educational and suit all the students.

Here's where good communication and cooperation with parents come into the picture again. For example, you can arrange with the parents to pick up the child before an activity that the child will not be a part of starts (always plan these activities at the end of the day). To make it up, collect the non-perishable items such as candy and neutral decorations as a gift to the child. If there are limitations to what the student can eat, perhaps it is better to give the package to parents so they can check what's appropriate.

If the family doesn't reject the notion of a Christmas school play or celebration in general, find a way to include their child neutrally. For example, ask them if their child can open a play by reciting a winter-related poem, or if he or she can play the role of Winter, or something similar. That way your student can be a part of the play without coming into conflict with his or her family’s beliefs.

Provide plenty of neutral activities 

At Christmas time you can provide plenty of activities that the children who celebrate will subconsciously associate with Christmas. Snowflakes and snow (for those with a winter Christmas), for example, are at the same time a Christmas classic and acceptable to children of all beliefs. Options are many - plentiful - from learning about how snowflakes form and the Earth's water cycle to making easy and beautiful paper snowflakes.

Also, by teaching about the Polar Circle during the Christmas time, students will get to learn about reindeers, local customs and Santa's home without the specific focus Santa and his crew.

By creative pre-meditation and good cooperation with the entire family, children who don't celebrate Christmas can still enjoy various fun activities and experience a bit of the holiday euphoria without creating internal or external conflict. After all, the time of Christmas is a time of love, and that is a precious feeling we all can share.

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