How parents can help their children manage end of school year stress

By: Ioana Pal, PsyD, clinical psychologist, Stramski Children’s Developmental Center, MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach

It’s the beginning of spring, the air feels warmer and the excitement of summer is present. However, as the school year winds down, anxiety can ramp up. The end of the school year is a time of transition for students and their parents. Children and parents internalize stress in different ways and finding ways to alleviate anxiety will help families have a more enjoyable summer.

Changing a routine can create the idea of stress, and that can affect how a child behaves at home. Sometimes they can become defiant, may not sleep well, alter their diet or lack willingness to participate in activities and family occasions.

As students attend their last weeks of classes, there are various stressors that can impact their overall well-being, including:

  • Changes to sleep and diet along with other routine activities
  • Changing schools or needing to attend summer school
  • Leaving a friend or beloved teacher behind
  • Moving to a larger campus
  • Studying for and taking exams

Although it’s difficult to predict how a child will respond to the onset of change, it’s important to communicate.

Parents can help with their child’s transition by creating closure, so that their child doesn’t assume the worst about the upcoming year. With any transition, it’s important to have a meaningful conversation, so parents can be aware of how a child is handling the situation. Some tips to deal with stress and anxiety, include:

  • Encouraging involvement in non-verbal activities, like sports, reading, writing and art
  • Establishing three coping skills they can engage in when they’re feeling overwhelmed, such as taking the dog for a walk, playing a video game or talking to someone
  • Celebrating  the completion of milestones
  • Highlighting the independence they’ll gain because of the new transition
  • Scheduling a walk-through at the new school or sit-down with their next teacher
  • Writing a card to a beloved teacher they’re leaving

Parents want to set their kids up in a position to optimize their success, which can occasionally cause parents unwarranted stress. When parents manage their own stress they can better serve their kids during stressful times by acting as a role model.

If a parent is experiencing anxiety, they should find someone to talk to, whether it’s another child’s parent or a family member. Having a supportive community can help lessen parents’ fears involving their children.

Today, there are many support groups online that parents can join. Parents also are encouraged to have a plan for the transition, draw it out and visually look at it to see where they need support.

Around the end of the school year when students are juggling different responsibilities and experiencing change, it’s normal for parents to feel some of that burden too. With open communication and guidance from parents during difficult times, kids will have more confidence going into a new or different experience and everyone can relax during the summer.

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