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Child Development

How Parents Can Help Kids at the End of the School Year

For youngsters, the end of the school year can be a mixed bag. Parents can help.

Key points

  • As the school year winds down, keep routines consistent to minimize the natural disruption that follows.
  • Suggest your child make a thank you card for their teacher.
  • Help your child recognize successes at the end of the school year.

The end of the school year can bring up a range of feelings for children. A seasoned school counselor has 10 tips for easing the natural transition that occurs when June comes. I interviewed her* for this post.

Here are 10 tips for how to support your child:

  1. Keep routines consistent. Routines build self-confidence, curiosity, social skills, self-control, communication skills, and more, according to the State of Victoria Education website. As the school year winds down, a number of celebrations, end-of-year projects, etc., will inevitably shift your family’s schedule. Prioritize keeping your family’s sleep routines as predictable as possible. When children are tired, they have a harder time regulating their emotions and managing change.
  2. Encourage your child to make a card for their teacher. The act of creating and giving a card can be a powerful closure activity for your child. This exercise also builds on the essential skill of gratitude. In a 2024 Pew Research Center poll of more than 2,500 K-12 public school teachers ("What Public K-12 Teachers Want Americans to Know About Teaching" written by Dana Braga et al.), teachers wanted people to know that teaching is a hard job, that teachers care about students, and that they feel undervalued. They also wanted people to know that they need parental support. Sending a card can have great meaning for the teacher, too; it is not just the positive benefits the child accrues.
  3. Help your child make a list of all of their successes from the school year, from making a new friend to recognizing their name to turning in assignments on time. Positive reinforcement has long been used in cognitive behavioral therapy and other approaches to change behavior. Reflecting on successes of all sizes will help them feel empowered and proud of their journey. This list may also be a helpful document for the beginning of next school year.
  4. Check in with your child. Ask about their thoughts and feelings related to this transition. Regardless of how your child responds, asking questions shows that you care about them and that you are aware that a grade (or school) change may be impacting them.
  5. Empathize with your child’s feelings. Support their reactions and normalize their experience; your child may feel a range of emotions, or they may just say they feel “fine.”
  6. Reflect on the transitions that you experienced as a child; include stories of times when things worked out and when things were hard for you without revealing something too upsetting for them to hear and for you to recount. Narrative therapy, created by David Epston and Michael White, can be used as a foundation for changing narratives that might exist in a parent's or a child's belief system that she, he, or they hold. It requires "thickening" or retelling a story that looks for success over adversity. The Dulwich Centre in Australia has a great website for learning more.
  7. Be present. While it’s important to reflect and to look ahead, it is equally important that you join your child where they are at the moment. Carve out uninterrupted time to play and read together so they feel your care and love. Bedtime can be an especially good time for having this connection and reinforcing a loving and protective atmosphere before going to sleep.
  8. Connect with your child’s teachers about their potential areas for academic and social growth. If you don’t already have this information, ask your child’s teachers how you can support your child over the summer. Perhaps there will be moments this summer when you can read books or engage in activities related to your child’s areas of growth. And, ask teachers and the school team for their advice if you have concerns about your child - they are all part of your child's team and are there to help.
  9. If you have more than one child, be sensitive to their different reactions and needs. Work hard to individualize your support. As parents with more than one child know, those children may be quite different—even opposite—in important ways.
  10. Celebrate the end of the school. Rites of passage are marked in all cultures and finishing a grade and moving on to the next is one such rite. Ask your child how they want to be recognized.

*Thanks to Alissa Greif Ovadia, LICSW, SAC, school counselor, Brookline Public Schools, for the above interview; she is my daughter.

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