At this time of year, the reality that students have to say goodbye to teachers, friends and schools begins to sink in. For some, this can be an anxious, difficult reality that may manifest in emotional outbursts, regression with behavior or toileting, and even some angst about coming to school. As parents and teachers, we may have to step in and help our children learn how to say goodbye and face their emotions over the ending of another school year, as well as the parting from friends, teachers, and the comfortable daily routine of school.

As with most emotional situations, allowing children the opportunity to talk things through and process their emotions is a key piece of healthy adaptation. Learning how to gracefully say goodbye is an important developmental stepping stone. This doesn’t mean that it is necessarily easy or pleasant. Children can become incredibly bonded and attached to teachers and classmates – after all, they see each other every day and go through all sorts of adventures and growing challenges together throughout the school year. Saying goodbye and knowing that there will be change – whether an all new classroom, a new teacher or even returning to the same classroom but with different peers, can be daunting and anxiety-inducing for some kids.

Start talking through the end of the school year process with your child before school ends, allowing them the time for processing and for closure. By going over what will happen and allowing the child to talk through concerns, some of the stressors can be alleviated. If your child is very anxious, finding out as much as you can about what sort of things happen in the next grade, etc. can help you to prepare him or her for what is to come. Knowing at least some of what is coming can help making the saying goodbye less painful. Try to find out exactly what is bothering your child (if anything) and address the fears behind the concerns. Reassuring your child that although they and/or their peers might be moving on, that they can still visit and maintain those relationships (something even teachers need, too!) is important, as well as acknowledging how your child is feeling.

As hard as it is, the end of the school year provides the opportunity for our children to learn healthy ways of letting go of old situations to prepare for something new, and it provides them with necessary life lessons in learning how to say goodbye. They just may need our help and support as parents and teachers to get through it.