So, we’re almost at the end of the year…almost! It’s always tough to make that final push towards December and parents may feel a little sluggish this time of the year. So what can families do together to make these last few weeks of the year feel a little lighter? Here are some great tips and ideas to round off the year in a meaningful way.
Remember some favourite moments
Take your child out for a milkshake and make a list of memorable events from your year. Make space for events that were both good and bad, comfortable and uncomfortable. To find these moments ask questions like: What event or situation during the year caught you by surprise? Did you make a special new friend? When did you feel bad about yourself? What made you laugh out loud? Which lesson did you feel the most proud of? Re-visiting these important moments in this past year will help kids think more about how their minds work and how they learn, which in turn will help them feel more capable, motivated, and persistent when they go back to school in the new year. If you don’t want to make this into a specific outing, then rather sprinkle them into quiet moments like during dinner, before bed, or when you’re out driving together.
Create a card for your child’s teacher together
One usual way to thank a teacher is to give them a gift at the end of the school year. But instead of (or along with) a gift, you could rather sit down with your child and write a letter about what you like about that teacher and the school year. Before you start writing, talk about it a bit. What are some of your child’s favourite things to do this year? What made that teacher so great? You could also ask yourself, do you remember a time when this teacher was especially nice? These are meaningful things to consider before you start writing. The use of this activity is not only to make the teacher feel loved and special, but also to help you and your child reflect on the impact this person has made on your child’s learning. It is important that your child can make this important connection somewhere inside themselves and this goes a lot further than just giving a gift for the sake of it.
Make a time capsule
Creating a beautiful time capsule is a wonderful way to remember the school year and is a great thing to do early in the early holidays. Find a shoe box and decorate it with your child. Then, write the child’s name and year on it. Next, ask your child to think about themselves as adults. What if many years from now, he found this time capsule, what would help him remember what made this school year so special? The contents of this capsule could be drawings, notes, cut-outs from magazines, an item of clothing, an object made out of Lego or even book pages from the year past. Your child will get a bit kick out of thinking about the future and the past all at once.
Talk about the upcoming change in routine
With the holidays coming up soon, the routine is about to change. While this is usually welcomed, the shift in predictability needs to be thought about because on an emotional level, this can cause some unexpected anxiety. So think together with your kids about what will change and what will stay the same. This will include things like how holiday plans will play out, waking up and bedtimes or whether screen times will be adjusted. You can also make countdown charts for Christmas or holiday trips. Talking about these practical things can help kids know what to expect over the holidays and give them the sense of security that they fundamentally need.
Think about next year
Talk about what next year is going to be like. This can include both fact and fantasy. Give your child a space to imagine what they think they will learn about, what they might do for extra murals, who they will meet and more. If you can, invite them to say what they are worried about as well as what they are excited about. Consider getting uniforms on the tail end of this year instead of doing it in a rush in the new year. Maybe school shoes can be worn during the holidays allowing your child to play in them at home for a while. These practical measures can help your child begin to imagine what next year will bring and they can get themselves ready for it emotionally.
The bottom line
This has been a busy and emotional year for all families, so it’s so important to pause and help your child access what they have made of it all. The 5 examples above offer past and future-facing options to generate interesting conversations and enjoy meaningful ‘thinking’ time together as a family. While kids won’t always have the emotional vocabulary to say how they feel; art, play and thoughtful activities with a caring adult will go a long way in helping them work through their anxieties and consolidate the year that has passed.