By Priscilla Dunstan
The school year is coming to an end and this means either a progression next year into a bigger school or moving up a grade. Although this type of experience is exciting, it also can be very stressful to children, who have little experience to rely upon for understanding change. Because of this it is normal to see some regressive behavior at the end of the school year since a child can feel torn between wanting to progress and feeling their own anxiety at leaving their current class and moving on.
Taste and smell children will tend to become clingy during these types of disruptions. They will find it hard to express this conflict and what will appear as emotional eruptions, over sensitivity or even “spoiled” behavior will be evident. This is just a sign that they are feeling overwhelmed, and worried about the future. Assure them that they can still see friends they have made at school and encourage them to keep in touch during the summer break through notes, pictures, phone calls or Skype. Arrange a reunion picnic or a few play dates before school starts to help them feel that they will gain friends, not lose them.
Tactile children tend to be very conscious about the rules in a classroom, but when they are cross, worried or nervous about a big change, such as leaving their current school, or moving up a grade they can respond by purposely breaking these rules, and not just a few but lots of them. This is a parent’s first indicator that their child is anxious about the school year ending and what it means for the child’s world. If they have a best friend it could be a good time to join their friend in an after-school hobby such as karate or bike riding in the park. This will help your child retain an important friendship but still speak to a tactile child’s sense of natural loyalty. When the new school year starts they will find it easier to make additional friends in addition to keeping their old friends.
Visual children can come across at time as being rude. They will comment on their teacher’s floral dress or refuse to play with their best friend because of her new shoes. This is a control issue and the less control they feel, the more rude and controlling they will become. Unfortunately this tends to happen at the end of the year when children are in transition. This can lead to hurt feelings and the breaking of friendships gained over the year. Talking regularly to your child reassuringly about the upcoming change can help. Focus on ways to keep friendships together, such as making a friendship bracelet, or a collage of their year together.
Auditory children find any disruption to their auditory world stressful, especially the notion of having to learn from a new teacher with a different voice, or being unsure of who they will have to sit next to. Their coping mechanism is to ask lots of unending, irrelevant questions, which easily can come across as whining and complaining. Sit them down regularly and talk to them about what is troubling them; they may not be able to express it very well but often having the opportunity is enough to have them feel listened to. Give them their own notepad so they can record their friends’ phone numbers and email addresses. While they may not use it or even understand it very well, it is a positive action they can take to keep in touch with friends.
By being prepared for the emotional expressions of your child, you will be able to show them patience and help to alleviate their anxiety over their coming class change. Be gentle with bad behavior and try to find out what is worrying them so you can help them transition more easily.