Oh, to end the school year. Do you remember that feeling? The day you’d been dreaming of for nine months was finally here. You’d finished finals and the week of class parties. Now, you were launching into all the adventure and freedom that awaited you. Summer break was here! TV all day, Doritos for breakfast and lunch and swimming into wrinkly ‘raisin’dom.
So, we know very well that joyous feeling our kids experience when they leave their campuses for the last time until September. And it isn’t just their new-found freedom from homework that’s got them floating on cloud 9. It’s also, for a lot of kids, knowing that they’ve overcome a lot.
Each child has accomplished so much. They’ve worked hard and been brave. They pushed through challenges and learned what was once seemingly impossible. Through an often awkward process of discovery, they’ve become more of who they are. They’ve made and lost friends and traveled through valleys of heartache to emerge strong and tender.
So, end the school year celebrating. Perhaps there are ways that your ministry or family commemorates this change of chapter. If so, share in the comments below. We love hearing from you! We’ve put together a few ideas for celebrating the end of the school year ourselves. Because we think these shifts in life are those that hold gifts to be mined and treasured.
Why end the school year with intention?
Beyond the obvious fact that kids are thrilled to be on summer break, ’cause it’s awesome, there are several reasons to celebrate school getting out.
Celebrations create rhythm. First, celebrating recurrent chapters that open and close in our lives grounds us. It gives us a sense of place and predictability. This is especially true for children.
Young children are still learning how time works. As a result, marking time with events places them in reality more effectively than speaking in days, months, years. Children remember, for example, that Thanksgiving happens after they’ve been back in school for a while. Eventually, they know that Christmas comes just a bit after Thanksgiving.
Celebrations, and particularly rituals, settle children into the cycle of their life. They begin to sense time even before they understand a calendar.
Encourages reflection on what has been. Celebrating the end of the school year opens the opportunity for conversations about the year that’s ending. Each year holds lots of change and learning. Giving kids a chance to notice this allows for memory-making, self-esteem building, and identity formation.
When we look back over a season, and particularly if we retell stories from that season, it becomes a part of us. As adults who guide children, we give them a gift in teaching them how to reflect on their life. Children who learn this skill are likely growing into thoughtful adults.
As you reflect with a child on their year, be sure to avoid making statements of judgment in response to what they did. Instead of saying, “It was so good that you stopped talking so much in class,” one could say, “I know you worked at not talking as much in class. How did you make that change and what was it like?”
Describe what you saw develop in your child. Ask how they felt when ______. Discuss challenges they experienced and how they overcame them. List the friends they made. Recall fun memories, e.g., field trips, camps, presentations, books, birthday parties, etc.
Invites joy and gratitude. Celebrating seasons of our lives opens us to joy and gratitude. When children look back and reflect, they often notice things for which they are thankful. Though we don’t want to dwell on the past, it is there that we see God’s provision and presence.
Also, celebrations are fun. And fun is important. Creating space for joy to enter strengthens us and gives us energy. Additionally, children feel joy when they know they are important. We can teach them this by taking seriously their lives and accomplishments.
As we age, gratitude becomes the basis for much of our joy. So, teaching our children how to experience joy in the mundane things, i.e., a school year’s end, is valuable. They will be more likely to find joy in the routine of life as adults, also.
Cultivates hope. When we celebrate and reflect on what has been, we enter into new situations with the hope of what we will soon celebrate. Even if subconsciously, children will understand this. Therefore, when children feel nervous about a new experience, they remember what came of other times they felt that way. This, then, develops self-reliance and courage as they face unknown territory.
When children, and indeed all of us, feel hopeful about the future, we are more likely to try new things. Taking risks in this way is necessary for growth. Passions and talents are uncovered. Likes and dislikes are established. A child finds their voice.
Not only that, but hope offers children the gift of resilience. When they remain hopeful, they know they can handle whatever comes their way. And truly, if we can teach our children resilience, it is a job very well done.
How might we celebrate?
Create traditions that will mark time. Decide what things you’ll do as rituals at school’s end. The possibilities are endless. But, we’ve gathered up a few ideas to get your wheels turning.
Get ice cream on the way home. Make a quick stop for ice cream or frozen yogurt. If there’s time, sit while enjoying it rather than getting it to go. Then, talk about what the year was like. Ask questions and tell them what you noticed. Share memories that stand out.
Create a photo book. Surely, on your phone, there are countless photos that would tell the tale of the year. This is a fun way to celebrate that your children can carry with them throughout life.
Go for a hike. If there are trails locally, plan a hike to enjoy together. Hiking is a great metaphor to process in the body the journey of a school year. Additionally, it opens lots of time for conversations about what the year held. Chat about what summer will hold that they’re looking forward to.
Enjoy a feast together. Make a celebratory dish from your cultural heritage. Or share their fave takeout as a family. We connect easily when we eat together. The smells and flavors comfort us and bring memories to mind. As you enjoy the meal, share with each other what was special about the year.
Have a blast as your children end the school year! We hope these ideas give you a few more ways of doing that while helping them make meaning. Grab our freebie for this post by clicking on the image below, and don’t forget to share how you’re planning to help your children celebrate in the comments below!