By Shelly Clay, principal at St. Croix Central Elementary School

This time of year brings a lot of excitement and energy, especially in an elementary school! But for some, it brings a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. We assume that with all the fun and excitement around the holidays that children and parents have no worries. However, we may be surprised to know that the flurry of activities that cause adults some anxiety - buying presents, cooking holiday dinners, and traveling long distances - may also be overwhelming for children.

We often hear from teachers that the holidays can be a major period of stress in the classroom. One teacher said that many times her students actually express that they prefer the structure of school over dealing with the demands and stressors of the holidays. Also, surprisingly, for some children, winter break can even be hard as it's a disruption in a predictable routine. The uncertainty and busy schedules are sometimes very difficult.

As educators and all those working with our students each and every day, we have had this on the forefront of our minds. Each year seems to bring more and more anxiety to some children. We have been very mindful of keeping a more structured routine, even pace, and a balance of healthy eating and activity-all the while having fun with holiday activities. With this organization, we have had a very successful week leading up to the holiday break.

Therefore, the hope I have for you is to really take this holiday break and enjoy each and every moment. Amid the busyness, stop, look around, hear the laughter, appreciate the small sibling debates, embrace the cluttered house, but most of all cherish the time. The greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Because when you give your time, you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back.

Research shows that families who spend time together share stronger emotional bonds. Spending time as a family is associated with a sense of belonging and enhanced communication. In addition, academic performance will improve and behavioral problems may be lessened.

A favorite time of year for most friends and families to gather, reminiscing about old memories and making lots of new ones is, of course, Christmas. It's a wonderful opportunity to disconnect with everyday stresses and reconnect with what life is really all about; friends, family, laughter, love, graciousness, gratitude, and spreading warmth and smiles. So, enjoy your holiday break and be ready to kick off 2018 with a bang!