By: Angela Currie, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA
Director of Training and New Hampshire Operations
The end of the school year can bring a lot of emotions, such as excitement for summer activities, sadness about closing relationships, and anxiety related to change. Often, children are experiencing these mixed emotions without truly understanding them. The end of this particular school year may bring some unique emotions, as it is the second consecutive ending that “looks different,” be it because students were remote for all or some of the year, class parties and field days are not happening, or children cannot give their teacher an end of the year hug. The loss of such traditions may cause kids to feel a lack of closure. Further, this transition is happening at a time when the world is starting to change again. While the loosening of restrictions and return to a semblance of “normal” may be positive for most, children may not know how to cope with all of this simultaneous change.
Here are some tips for things that adults can do to help children cope with what may be a difficult or uncertain end to the current school year:
- Watch for signs that your child may be struggling with this transition. This may include new sleep difficulties, low frustration tolerance, heightened emotions, meltdowns, reduced appetite, loss of interest, etc.
- Talk about their feelings related to the end of the year in an open and responsive manner, validating their emotions (e.g., “I can see why that would make you feel sad,” rather than accidentally dismissing them (e.g., “Don’t worry.”).
- Help provide some closure with their teacher, such as writing a card or letter about what they enjoyed, learned, or overcame together this year.
- Using artwork or journaling, help your child reflect on their development, accomplishments, and experiences this past year.
- Create a plan for how they can stay in touch with friends over the summer and schedule some specific playdates or events to reduce worry about losing touch.
- Maintain your basic schedule, such as morning and bedtime routines.
- To reduce worry related to uncertainty, provide some age-appropriate opportunities to feel a sense of control, such as allowing your child to design a new daily schedule for “home days,” choose individual or family activities, etc.
The end of any school year provides a great opportunity to teach children about transition and change. We can teach them that it is okay to celebrate their accomplishment while also simultaneously feeling discomfort about what is to come and sadness about saying goodbye. Particularly during a year that has been marked by adversity, learning how to recognize, “sit with,” and manage these mixed emotions will help to build resiliency for the future.
About the Author
Dr. Angela Currie is a pediatric neuropsychologist at NESCA. She conducts neuropsychological and psychological evaluations out of our Londonderry, NH office. She specializes in the evaluation of anxious children and teens, working to tease apart the various factors lending to their stress, such as underlying learning, attentional, or emotional challenges. She particularly enjoys working with the seemingly “unmotivated” child, as well as children who have “flown under the radar” for years due to their desire to succeed.
To book an evaluation with Dr. Currie or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician in the referral line.
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Londonderry, NH, Plainville, MA, and Newton, MA serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (603) 818-8526.