Feelings run high as the school year comes to a close. Parents, teachers and kids are all exhausted. We know that and can keep that in mind. What I think we sometimes miss or would rather side step is that this is a goodbye. For some, it comes with a sigh of relief that they made it through this grade. For some, great excitement thinking ahead to the new grade or school they will attend in the Fall. For some, it is filled with sadness thinking about not seeing a favorite teacher or good friends on a daily basis. Sometimes it can be a mix of many emotions.
In the midst of all the flurry of end of school activities, I encourage parents to take a moment to reflect on the year. Maybe start by noting for yourself what were the highlights and what were the struggles; without a doubt you will look back and see a lot of growth. Once you have a sketch in mind, share it with your kid(s). One thing we have that they don’t is perspective. We can look back and say to them, “last year you couldn’t do x,y,z… now look at you”. It is particularly valuable to use this as a way to reinforce their effort.
They don’t have to be the kid who received all the awards at the assembly. They do have to know that they are capable of sticking with something that challenged them and by doing so they found their way through. That is a critical life skill. In our culture we tend to praise the high achievers and miss how hard some kids work. By valuing effort we help them develop a sense of competency and fortitude they will need to weather what life has in store.
It is in our nature to seek approval and praise from those we respect. It feels good in the moment, yet what I think most parents would want for their children is that they feel a strong sense of agency and competence. That can only come from them practicing effort and by us guiding them along the path.