For many children across the UK, these next few weeks mark the end of their time in primary school. It is the end of an era, an important part of a child's (and parents') lives and the start of something new.
Having a good ending can make the world of difference to the next beginning, so how do we ensure that children have the best possible ending to their stage in school and ensure they have the best start possible in September?
Perhaps the first things to be aware of are:
Every child is unique.
For some children the end of the school year simply cannot come soon enough. It has been talked about for so long, they have outgrown where they are and they are ready to move on. For other children this time can represent a significant loss. If they have had previous difficult endings (including the death of pets) or difficult experiences at school (such as bullying) their responses may seem almost out of proportion. This could well be because they are not only feeling the loss of the current situation but are re-living some of the pain and fear related to previous experiences. Almost all will feel some sense of loss and sadness. Primary school was probably their first major separation from their family. They have spent a large percentage of their lives in school and it has become a place of belonging for them.
Follow the child's lead.
If they want to just brush the ending off and get on with it, then let them. If they want to sit and cry, give them a shoulder to cry on for as long as and as often as they need it. If they want to talk through their worries for the future them hear them out - but try to avoid pat answers that may not make them feel any better. There's no need to force a conversation on your child. They know how to communicate with you and will do so as and when they are ready.
Encourage them to remember and treasure the good.
It could be that your child wants to make some kind of "memory box" so they can always hold on to the good of primary school. This could contain things like certificates, pictures, school books, photos. Whatever are the significant things to them from primary school can be represented somehow in the box.
When they are ready, they can literally put the lid on the box and put it away. They can also go back to the box and look through it when they wish. By doing something like this you are allowing your child to mark what is important to them but also contain it so that it doesn't take over and spoil the future.
Help them let go of the bad.
It could be that your child has had some experiences at primary school that haven't been so good. This could be an excellent opportunity to put those things aside and make a new start. If you want, you could carry out some kind of creative "ritual" to help the child move away from these things. One idea would be to invite your child to write down a summary of the bad things or feelings on paper and shred or (with supervision!) burn them.
Finally, remember that as well as being a big moment for your child, this is also a big moment for you. Make sure you too have the time and space to adjust to this change. If you do that, then you both will be in a better place to face the future together.
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Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
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