As kids approach the end it can be difficult to keep them motivated. This lack of motivation often results in difficulties completing work, power struggles, melt downs, and sometimes even anxiety or depression. It is a culmination of things that lead to this slump and while not every kid will experience it, it is different for every kid that does. The weather gets nicer and kids want to be outside, not cooped up in a classroom. Some kids simply see the freedom of summer coming and start daydreaming about all of the fun they will have, leaving little to desire about the rest of the school year. Some kids are just so worn out by the school year that they no longer feel they have the energy to do the work. Some kids become anxious about leaving the structure of school and those emotions interfere with the ability for them to perform at their typical level. For everyone, even the teachers, the atmosphere changes at the end of the school year and that is difficult for many to cope with. The lighter atmosphere leads to feeling like responsibility should be lighter, which isn’t always the case.
As parents, even though all of these reasons may make sense and we may even be feeling them ourselves, it can be a real struggle to deal with difficulties that it brings. Its frustrating having endless battles to get your child to do their homework, or go to bed on time, or even get ready for school. This can lead to your heightened levels of frustration or anxiety, on top of you possibly feeling that summer itch setting in as well. While there really are no ways to get rid of the feelings about the end of the school year and excitement for summer, there are a few things you can do to help make it easier for your child to stay on task and in turn, make your end of the school year much less stressful.
- Plan Ahead: be as prepared as possible for the predicted slump. Create rewards to motivate task completion and school attendance. Plan fun activities for days with less responsibility. Make calendars. Plan summer activities so that the kids know exactly what they are working for. Structure school work and ask the teacher for work ahead of time so you will know how much they will have to do and when it will be due. The more prepared you are the better you will be able to help your child and reduce frustration on both parts.
- Don’t Procrastinate: getting school work done as soon as it is assigned rather than putting it off until right before it is due will help reduce the likelihood of it not getting done. The end of the school year tends to be full of more large projects rather than small assignments, meaning the work load is given out either days or weeks before it must be done. Helping your child to understand that the sooner it gets done the less work they will have and the easier the end of the school year will be for them will reduce the power struggle of doing homework and the late nights finishing or even the chances of incomplete assignments. Making a visual calendar of the work they have left can also help them understand this concept, especially for younger children.
- Take Advantage of the Nice Weather: one major factor in the end of the school year difficulties, especially for certain locations, is that the weather is finally starting to turn from cold and yucky winter to warm and fun summer. This means kids, and adults, want to be outside and doing all of the fun activities that they have not been able to do while cooped up all year long. Taking advantage of this nice weather time can help reduce some of that cabin fever that leads to difficulties completing school work. Right after school, go for a walk, or to the park and then come home and eat dinner and do homework. Spend extra time outside before going to the bus stop. Go to the zoo on a weekend. Getting them some time enjoying the weather and getting energy out will help balance out the time they are still “trapped” doing school work.
- Be Mindful: try to stay in the moment. Break tasks down into smaller tasks that allow full concentration. If homework is too difficult engage in a mindfulness activity prior to homework in order to improve focus and mood. Reduce external stimuli and distractions. Create an environment conducive to progress. If being outside helps, do homework outside.
- Make a Countdown: make a visual countdown to the end of the school year. Make it colorful and fun. You can use the last month calendar and write down all tasks that must be accomplished, when they are due, and schedule when you will work on them. Also include fun activities and outdoor time. Allow the child to interact and be able to cross out days as they finish them in order to help them see that they are getting closer to the end. You can also do other visual countdowns for younger children if they have to be less focused on homework and more just on getting through the days. Paper chain links, beads in a jar, sticker charts, or an advent calendar of sorts are all great ideas to help them visualize that they are nearing the end and know exactly how much they have left.
- Validate Their Feelings: make sure you tell them you understand how they feel and why they feel that way. Help them understand that it is okay to feel how they do and yet they still must do what they must do. It may even help to relate to them and explain that you also feel very similar or at least did when you were in school. Share what worked for you rather than telling them what to do. It’s a balance between allowing them to feel and supporting them and helping them to understand that they still have to complete the school year to the best of their ability.