With the end of the school year coming, students are getting ready for everything from exams to pool parties. Meanwhile, parents and teachers are dragging ourselves along, hoping to reach the finish line.
Parents, I am sending waves of solidarity. I know how crazy and hectic this time of year is. Next week is our last week and my wife and I can barely move right now.
Still, there are a few things to do now, despite being tired. These are small things that will help your child in some important, if subtle, ways.
Schedule a time with your child to discuss this school year*. What went well? What could they work on?
Obviously this includes academics. But on the social-emotional front, it's a great time to think about their relationships and the way they treat people. Few children or adolescents always get things right socially. They are, by definition, immature. Chances are there have been a few mistakes or errors. So, is there anyone to whom they need to apologize? Any bridges to build or mend? Is there anyone with whom they could make things right before the year ends? Help them figure out a plan to address this before the end of school. I've noticed that social or relational issues often seem to calcify over the summer. It's best to try to address them before school is out.
On the positive side, are there new friendships they'd like to cultivate? Summer is a great time for this, offering many low-risk opportunities to branch out socially. Can you set up a plan to invite them to go see a movie, swimming, sleep-over, or whatever your child wants to do? Kids need to do the work of making friends, but parents can help a great deal with logistical support, especially when the child can't drive.
Another thought: if anyone at the school made a difference in your child's life, may I suggest sending a note? For the recipient, hearing that you succeeded in helping someone makes a huge difference--especially in a field where there are not so many material rewards.
If your child can do this, so much the better. This kind of gratitude blesses the recipient, but it's also a happy way to live and getting in this habit can benefit a child as well.
*The idea of asking for an appointment is something I've talked about a lot before. It's just a small tactical thing that makes a big difference. You simply say, "I need to talk with you about something. You pick the time--it can be anytime in the next [whatever time period you feel is important]. If you promise to listen and engage, it only needs to take [however long you feel is needed]. This makes a huge difference in getting my kids to engage with me. Something about letting them pick the time and knowing in advance what the time limits are really helps my kids.
Now, for teachers, I'd really encourage giving careful thought to end-of-the-year projects. These can be great, but they can also be really, really stressful. Last night a friend was on social media, incredibly frustrated because her son's English teacher assigned the students to make a movie. The assumption was that any teen today knows how to do stuff like that--from filming to using editing software. A lot of teens do. This one didn't, and the stress was enormous.
I'd also encourage trying to be thoughtful about what other teachers in other classes might be assigning. If everyone is assigning elaborate projects, that can get pretty hard on a family pretty quick. And that's not even considering things like end of the year parties.
Just as we enjoy getting notes that we made a difference, I think it's a wonderful time for us to reach out to a child we've seen grow, or a parent who was wonderful, or a child who didn't grow, but in whom we see potential. I wrote a long note once to a child I hope will one day care. It may or may not help that child. As of now, it doesn't seem to have registered. But it made me feel like I had tried to do something.
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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