Transitioning from School to Summer Break
Photo courtesy of Pinkyone/Shutterstock
This time of year usually marks the end of the school year and the beginning of summer break. Whether your child will be attending a summer camp, traveling with you or staying at home, there will inevitably be changes in the routine. Taking some time to reflect on the past school year and thinking together about the upcoming changes can help your child feel more comfortable and prepared for letting go and moving forward.
Saying Goodbye at the End of a School Year
Life is full of goodbyes. School goodbyes come every year, giving parents repeated opportunities at different developmental levels to help their children acknowledge and express the feelings around ending one school year and beginning another. Thinking together about goodbyes provides children space in which to reflect on the various aspects of the relationships and experiences they’ve shared.
Saying Goodbye to a Preschool Teacher
Of all teachers, preschool teachers share a particularly close relationship with the children in their care. Preschool teachers often step in to help children with managing and mastering many of their basic needs. In many cases, preschool teachers support their students’ development in significant ways (such as helping them develop enough comfort to say goodbye to their parents for the school day). When a teacher has played such a personal and important role in a child’s life, the goodbye will naturally also be a personal and important one.
You can help your preschool child take a more active role in the goodbye by helping him think of the things he liked about his teacher. If a goodbye gift seems appropriate, the most meaningful gifts are often the most simple. A handmade picture or craft, for example, will have more meaning to your child (and his teacher) than a gift purchased by you. Children of this age need a lot of help from their parents to put words to their feelings, so how much this type of conversation is out in the open will depend on how often you keep it going.
Preparing for the Summer
In addition to reflecting on the past year, young children benefit from knowing about the changes in their routine that will take place over their summer break. Creating a calendar marking the dates of camp or travel, or simply keeping track of the number of days between school years, may help your child feel more settled with some of the changes in the routine. If your child is going to attend a camp at his or her school, it may be helpful to know if the teacher will be the same, which children will be attending, and how the schedule will be different from what your child is accustomed to.
When to Seek Help
For some children, even what seem to be simple changes in the routine cause significant disruption or difficulty. They may become regressive, reactive or more sensitive when there are changes, and discussions and calendars are not enough to help ease the transition. In such cases, it may help to seek the guidance of a qualified mental health professional to understand the reasons for your child’s difficulty with changes in the routine, putting you in a stronger and more informed position to assist your child.
The Lucy Daniels Center is a nonprofit agency in Cary that promotes the emotional health and well-being of children and families. Visit lucydanielscenter.org to learn more.