The end of the school year is upon us! Sweet pictures of kindergarten graduations are filling my scrolls through social media, and sentimental, reflective posts from proud parents of graduating seniors are making me smile.
Everywhere around me I am noticing small movements of change and hope. My neighbors’ houses that were quiet and stoic last year at this time are now filled with grandchildren playing on the front porch. There are more and more smiles shared while people are out enjoying the sunshine and warming weather. Re-entry and the possibility of a more normal summer is now the topic of conversation.
While a lot of your conversations may be about what re-entry is going to look like for your family, I want to encourage your family to take the time to end this school year in a thoughtful, intentional way.
Resist the temptation to move on too quickly
Many times I am tempted to sweep on past the difficult things when I see light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t want to stop and reflect, or even celebrate the end of a difficult season because intertwined with the successes are painful memories and difficult situations. And alongside joy and thankfulness often exist tears and feelings of guilt, frustration, or anger.
But leading your family by taking the time to end this school year thoughtfully is a great way to model resilience. Because part of resilience is the willingness to consciously engage with and reflect on difficult circumstances.
Affirm your child in who they are
This past school year looked different for everyone. What school was like could have depended on where you lived or what type of school your children were enrolled in. But regardless, each child responded in their own way to remote, hybrid, or simply socially distanced school environments and extracurriculars. Some kids thrived in remote learning this last year, some kids really struggled.
Grades may have been inconsistent, friendships may have been difficult, test scores may have been low. Maybe they didn’t have the chance to play their favorite sport or compete how they normally would have.
When there has been a lot of tension, failure, or disappointment, it is so important to intentionally affirm who your child is. Aside from their performance, their results, or their placement, what do you see that is great about them? Name and affirm what you love, what you find endearing, what you appreciate about them as a person.
An important part of resilience, of coming out on the other side of difficult circumstances with grit and determination, is taking the time to grieve what you have lost. Maybe you have had space to do this along the way, but even if so, offering a listening ear as the school year comes to a close is an important act of presence.
Sometimes sadness and grief doesn’t emotionally materialize until a difficult season is ending, so acknowledging the struggles and losses is helpful to keep communication lines open between you and your child. Again, keep it away from their performance and results, and more about what they have lost or missed.
You may choose to commemorate this in some way, whether that be visiting a place that holds significance, creating art, making a meal together, or planting some flowers.
Celebrate your child’s success
Finally, end this school year well by celebrating! Your child has persevered, and has accomplished so much just by completing this school year. Celebrate what they are proud of, celebrate the goals that they did reach, and celebrate their toughness, grit, and strength!
If they got the grades they wanted – celebrate!
Did they learn a new skill? Celebrate!
They showed up for school every day – celebrate!
If they stayed engaged in class – celebrate!
Was there an exceptional essay or project? Celebrate!
Whatever it is, take a moment to do something fun and to applaud them for their efforts this year. They deserve it! And they need to know you are proud of them.