How to handle those last day of school blues

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

The last day of school can be really hard for some children. Having to say goodbye to their favourite teacher and their classmates for the school holidays can be difficult.

What makes it even scarier is the uncertainty of a new class and new teacher in the year ahead.

Leaving behind what's become your second family and your comfort zone for a big stretch of time and knowing that everything will be different when you head back to school, can be confronting for many children.

As adults we know that change is sometimes hard to navigate, for children it's even harder. 

National program developer at Interrelate Kristy Innes said students form close bonds with their teachers. 

"Students will spend approximately 180 days a year with their teacher," Ms Innes said.

"Throughout the early schooling years many parents also will have a relationship with the teacher and students see this interaction regularly, therefore when the end of school year arises it can be daunting."

And for many younger children, a six-week holiday seems like an incredibly long time.

"The end of a schooling year is like closing a chapter and can be seen as a time of sadness as it means saying goodbye," she said.

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"Goodbye to the teacher who has kept you safe and shared so many wonderful things with you. Goodbye to your friends for six whole weeks, which seems like a lifetime. 

"Goodbye to the class room, desk and chair you have adorned all year and goodbye to the routine you have had every day."

She said children were nervous about new experiences, much like adults.

"It's the element of the unknown," she said.

"We like to have structure and know where we are going, what it's going to look like and feel safe doing it. 

"A new class means a new environment, and not knowing your place in that environment can be daunting."

Here are some tips to help children feel less afraid of what's to come:

1. Be patient

Remember everyone's tired and extra emotional at the end of the school year. If they're really struggling then perhaps give them a day off school or let them have a sleep-in. Tiredness makes tricky situations harder.

2. Have a good sign-off

Encourage your child to write their teacher a goodbye letter or card and buy a small gift. Sharing their thoughts will help them feel better. And taking the time to say a proper goodbye will help them get a little closure. If the teacher will be at the same school the following year, make sure to reassure your child that they will still get to see them in the school yard.

3. Familiarise them with their new class

If you know who your child's new teacher is and where their classroom will be, then take them for a quick visit, so they feel less uncertain about what's to come next year. Keep it positive and exciting for them.

4. Arrange some play dates

Once you know some of your child's new classmates, then arrange a play date with a few of them so they get to know each other better before the school year. Also don't forget to have a catch-up with their friends from the year gone, so they understand that while friendships may change they are not gone forever.

5. Focus on the holidays

Get them hyped-up about the holidays. Ask them to write a list of some fun things they'd like to do and places they'd hope to visit. It's also important to help younger children, in particular, know that six weeks may seem like a long time, but it fly by with all the awesome activities you have planned.

6. Talk to them about change

Remind them of how brave they are and how exciting new beginnings are too. Let them know that while change might make you feel uncertain or nervous it's also a happy time to learn new things, meet new people and have fun experiences. Teach them to embrace change and feel excited about the year ahead.