Do you remember your favorite teachers from when you were a kid? Were you sad to leave them at the end of the school year? The close of school is a bittersweet time because of goodbyes, but it's especially hard for kids to leave teachers they've grown to love. Here are techniques my family has developed to help our kids take those first steps out of the classroom and into summer even if they're feeling sad.
1. Watch for changes in behavior. Sleep problems, acting out, and other challenging behaviors often surface during transitions and losses. My kids, for example, start fighting exactly six weeks before the end of every school year, and stop about three days into vacation. Don't give your child a pass, but do remember that the behavior will clear up.
2. Read books about the end of school. Start reading before school ends--or right now if your school already has finished for the year. Books where the teacher feels sad might worry a tender-hearted child, so focus instead on factual or happy stories. Even if your child doesn't want to talk about the books, he or she will gain food for thought.
3. Ask the teacher for help. Teachers have to say goodbye every year too! They may have suggestions for books, conversations, and activities to help ease the transition.
4. Visit school during the summer. Kids can find comfort in the simple familiarity of the school playground. When my kids were small, we would visit the preschool to see it "resting" for the summer, and they were comforted to see it being painted and cleaned even though their teachers weren't there.
5. Have kids write to the teacher. If you're not sure whether the teacher will write back, be sure to say so. Younger kids can dictate words and draw pictures; older kids can write on their own. If letters can't be delivered over the summer, your child might like to keep a journal or box of letters to give or send once school reopens in the fall.
6. Let your child lead. Give him or her opportunities to talk, but don't push the conversation. I've found that asking, "Anything on your mind?" and then listening is the most productive way to approach. If your child doesn't express feelings verbally yet, drawing pictures together can show you what's going on.
7. Simply support the sad feelings. You can't make the feelings go away, but you can be present when your child feels sad. Hugging, doing things together, and just sitting side-by-side speak volumes to a child in need of support. With older kids, working on some kind of project together (e.g., puzzles, cooking)--so you don't have to make eye contact--can be especially helpful.
If we let our kids' grief take its time, their hearts will heal in time for fall. While it's hard to see a child experiencing loss, it can help to remember that learning to say goodbye is a valuable lesson. Saying it at the beginning of summer is not such a bad time after all, right?
If you have other tips on how you've helped your kids cope with goodbye teacher blues, please share in the comments below!
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