Are School Holiday Parties Doing More Harm than Good?

Schools have a long-held tradition of hosting classroom parties for various holidays throughout the year. Typically, a room parent or volunteers will help organize these, and most students look forward to the break in the normal school routine. However, some students and parents feel anxiety or frustration toward these school holiday parties. Here’s why.

When the Child Can’t Eat the Food

It seems that more and more these days there are students who suffer from severe food allergies. These are a challenge for parents and students on any given school day, but most especially during school holiday parties where there is an increased risk of exposure to allergies or foods outside of their allowed diet.

Problem:  Students who are on restricted diets due to food allergies or medical concerns feel left out.

Solution:  The teacher or volunteer in charge of the party should reach out to the parents to be made aware of any such food aversions and attempt to reasonably accommodate for these concerns. If a child is particularly restrictive in their diet, the parents can send in a “special treat” as a substitution for them to enjoy during the party.

When Parents Can’t Make It

Not every family has a stay-at-home parent who can easily make it to these school holiday parties. Many have full-time working parents, and taking time off in the middle of a school day is not always an option. These students whose parents are not able to make the parties oftentimes feel jealous or sad when they see their classmates with their parents.

Problem: Students whose parents couldn’t make it feel lonely.

Solution: Teachers should (as much as possible) notify parents of scheduled class parties well in advance. The more notice given, the more likely it is that parents can request and have approved this time off or make arrangements for another family member to be present at these parties. Additionally, those parents who are able to attend the parties should proactively take notice of any child seeming to be upset because their parent isn’t there and include those kids in their conversations and party festivities.

When Families Don’t Celebrate that Holiday

There are many holidays throughout the year that not all families celebrate due to cultural or religious reasons. This can make the activities and celebrations during the school holiday parties difficult to plan for and upset parents whose students are participating in these festivities. For the most part, schools are good about keeping parties generic, but sometimes there are crafts or activities that are too specific to the holiday that parents do not wish their children to be a part of.

Problem: Parents object to having their students participate in aspects of holidays they don’t celebrate.

Solution: Party planners should be intentional to keep crafts and decorations generic. For example, rather than a Christmas tree or Santa, perhaps use snowmen and mittens. Instead of witches and ghosts, incorporate pumpkins and fall leaves. There are ways to still connect the theme to the time of year without utilizing pieces of the holiday that families may consider objectionable. Additionally, if parents are particularly opposed to known holidays that schools celebrate, a conversation should be held with the teacher ahead of time to come up with mutually agreeable compromises.

While these three issues (perhaps more) must be considered when hosting school holiday parties, it is important to focus on the need for celebration by students. Students are stressed and seem to be dealing with more complex and demanding issues at school each and every day. Parents and educators place high performance expectations on students, and these kids desperately need their time for play and fun. While all concerns must be heard and factored into planning these school holiday parties, the focus should be on giving the students events to look forward to and to celebrate throughout the school year in order to balance and reward their hard work.

Another consideration if your child experiences continual anxiety at school events is engaging with public school at home. This alternative education option with K12 provides a personalized learning experience online for your student.

What are your experiences with school holiday parties? Has your child ever felt frustrated or excluded for any of these reasons? Should schools continue having holiday parties, or are they doing more harm than good?

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