The countdown has begun – by both the teachers and the students: “One more Monday!” “Nine more class days!” As the end of the year quickly approaches, emotions run high – and in more ways than you might think.
Certainly everyone looks forward to a break from school: time to play, lots of hours to sleep in, relief from homework. But for some teens it causes equal parts stress along with the joy. It’s a big change in routine, and that’s not always a good thing.
For the teen who can’t yet drive, it means getting together with friends can only happen at the whim of a parent or another willing chauffeur. Certainly there’s MySpace, Facebook, and texting, but none of them take the place of a good punch in the arm, or giggling together until you can’t breathe. For middle schoolers, most social interactions take place at school or revolve around school schedules, and they know they’ll miss that in the summer.
Younger teens present a unique babysitting challenge for working parents. Too young to get a job but too old to stay with a babysitter, many teens wind up staying home alone or in charge of younger siblings. Usually they’re restricted to the house for their own safety and security, and boredom quickly sets in. If they’re being paid to babysit the siblings, they’re not free to accept invitations to friends’ houses or to the lake for a swim.
For some teens, imagining a summer full of unscheduled time is a cause of stress. Not knowing how to fill their hours can make them tense. Even the anticipation of empty days stretching into the future might make them edgy.
Teens and pre-teens alike might be facing big changes as they look ahead to the new school year. The transitions from elementary to middle school, or from middle school to high school, mean not only new locations and new people, but higher expectations and tougher assignments. Anxiety about moving on can also color the end of the year.
I refer to this time of year as “Drama Season.” Some teens resort to “bridge burning” activities, either because they know they won’t have to face their classmates again, or else to cover the pain of having to say good-bye. Some get overly sensitive or extremely moody. Some just quit doing schoolwork altogether, quite willing to face the consequences because “it’s almost over.”
If you find yourself in the middle of more outbursts than usual, consider the possibility that it’s caused by all those end-of-the-year feelings. You can try helping your teen to verbalize his feelings, but it can be a tough task. He’s likely to deny it’s his fault at all, placing the blame on you or on school or on being too overwhelmed by homework. You’ll need all your best empathy skills. Or maybe you’ll just need to give her some space and ride it out. Keep in mind that teens don’t have much control over what happens once school’s out, so involve them in any decisions that you can. Feeling like they have even a small amount of choice can help lessen the stress.
Summer’s coming! Time to stock up on sunscreen, finalize those vacation plans – and ride out the storms that may come your way as the school year winds down.