How to Have a “Good Goodbye”

This post is based on WSMS’ partnership with Lesley Koplow, Director of Bank Street’s Center for Emotionally Responsive Practice, and the Network for Schools that Heal.

Often mistaken for spring fever, behavior changes in children at the end of the year may be a result of anxiety that children don’t know how to manage. The everyday relationships that they experience at school are changing, and it can be difficult to imagine that school will come to an end. You may notice these feelings causing children to shut down or act out, and you will likely experience it again when children transition through the end of summer to the beginning of the school year.

Children need to practice separation in order to learn how to have a “good goodbye”. Teachers work with children in classrooms to help them accomplish this in many ways. You may notice representations of time displayed in the classrooms that help children understand how time is passing in concrete ways. Teachers also talk about favorite memories from the year, what children could do at the beginning of the year and what they can do now, and read books about summertime and separation. The timeline to begin talking about the end-of-year is usually about two to four weeks before the last day of school.

Here are some ways you can help support your children’s transition to summer at home.

Save time to connect.

Rituals that mark the end of the year such as parties, celebrations, and performances, paired with summer preparations, can feel stressful and overwhelming for parents and children. The time involved in these preparations takes attention away from children who are in particular need of a strong connection at this time. Help children share their memories and celebrate the year in meaningful, low-key ways and make sure you save time to connect.

Meet children where they are.

When children show regressive behaviors, they may be trying to show you that they are not quite as excited as you are about the steps ahead. Meet them where they are by using the clear and consistent language and routines that may have been helpful when they were younger.

Avoid language about being a “big boy” or a “big girl”.

This can place pressure on children who may not be sure they are ready to be “big.”

Acknowledge that separation is for everyone.

For children who are returning, there will still be changes to their community. The end-of-year is a separation for parents too!

Listen.

Ask how children are feeling and listen to the nuisances of their thought process.

Come back to visit!

For children moving on to Kindergarten, our door remains open. Once everyone is settled into the school year, we would love to schedule a time for your child to come visit for lunch or to share a story time in their classroom.

Try this activity:

Think of a word that describes how you want your child to feel at the end of the year. How is your family’s routines and environment working for and against this? How can you change that environment to be more supportive?

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