As we enter the final weeks of the school year, many students and families are experiencing or anticipating transitions. They may be transitioning back from remote or hybrid learning. They may be anticipating a transition to a new school in the fall. Some students may also be experiencing family transitions. Regardless, transitions can cause significant anxiety and stress and get in the way of student success.
Of course, we need to monitor how students are feeling and anticipate uncertainties and worries they may be or will be experiencing. We can provide information that will reduce concerns and provide reassurance. We can plan activities to help students manage current transitions and prepare for what lies ahead. Further, we can utilize our relationships with students to provide guidance and reassurance.
However, parents and guardians are also playing important roles in the lives of our students as they navigate changes and anticipate new experiences. This is a unique time in that families played an even larger and more crucial role than usual in the education of many students over the past year. Consequently, they may now be uniquely positioned to help their children and our students to make their way through what they are feeling and experiencing.
Obviously, we have a full agenda for our attention in the coming weeks and could use some support and assistance. Parents and guardians may be able to share the load, if we invite, support, and provide them with specific actions they can take. Here are five ways we can enlist the assistance of and guide parents and guardians to provide support for children through what they may be experiencing.
A good place to start is by coaching parents to encourage their children to talk about what is happening and how they are feeling. It’s important that they don’t assume issues of concern. What children and young people worry about may be something other than what adults think. It may be the pressures to finish the year, worries about what next year will be like, what is coming this summer, or something completely unrelated. These can also be opportunities to monitor how the transition is going, including what may be positive and energizing for the child.
We can counsel parents to focus on learning growth and progress rather than grades alone. Many factors can influence what grades kids may receive at the end of the year. What matters most is what they are learning and the progress they are making.
This also is a good time to advise parents to help their child to focus on what they can control. Worrying about all that could happen beyond the child’s control invites unproductive worry and needless stress. On the other hand, when students realize the full scope of what they can control, they are often reassured and better able to relax.
Next, we can coach parents to remind and reconnect their child with past experiences of change with which they dealt successfully. By recalling strategies that they have relied on in the past and reflecting on how they might help now, students can increase their resiliency and build their confidence.
Further, we might caution parents to be alert for signs of stress, depression, and anxiety that last longer than during past transitions and difficult circumstances or are of greater intensity than the child may be able to handle. Encourage parents to contact you if they observe symptoms that are cause for concern. In some cases, we may be able to provide the support and reassurance needed. Or we may find that the situation needs the attention of someone with specific expertise to whom the parent and child may be referred.
Of course, we cannot anticipate every issue our students will face as the end of the year approaches. However, we can remain alert and sensitive to changes in students’ behavior and moods. We can also enlist other resources in students’ lives that can help. Parents and guardians certainly need to be on that list.