According to the National Association of Health Education Centers, the chief stressor for students ages 9-13 is school. No middle grades educator is surprised by this, given the factors involved in a student’s school day—grades, homework, friends, etc. As the holidays approach, these stressors are compounded. For kids from abusive and alcoholic families, the holidays are filled with anxiety, if not danger. For the vast majority of middle schoolers, there will be long stretches of time with nothing to do.

For many, interactions with family members are not particularly pleasant, and 10- to 15-year-olds often don’t know how to change this dynamic (to be honest, they often add to it!). Sometimes schools deepen the stress by ramping up the schoolwork as a way of keeping kids focused and busy. Even preparation for holiday programs and projects changes the routine enough to bring on new stress.