10 Ways to Calm End-of-the-School-Year Frenzy

As a parent, I’ve always found the end of the school year to be a mixed bag. It can be an exciting time  to look forward to summer plans and the relaxation, fun and family time they portend. It can offer meaningful rituals and warm celebrations with family and friends. It can also be ridiculously busy and packed with obligations and graduations (from pre-school on up), not to mention parties and ceremonies for every classroom, team and group.

This time of year definitely got easier for me with the passing years. There seem to be less scheduled events now that my daughter is a little older, and the events themselves seem to be more relaxed — I always thought all-day picnics at rented pools, with transportation and activities and awards and lots of necessary parent-volunteer help were too much for smaller kids anyway. Likewise, endless award ceremonies and graduations for tiny children who would rather be playing. And, for that matter, a too-busy calendar.

One special year (over objections from some parents – is that who these parties are for?) the kids in my daughter’s class all walked to a teacher’s house because they had wanted to play with her dogs. They had picnic lunches and played games in a park and walked back to school for the end of the day. It was probably one of the simplest, most memorable year-end parties of all, because it came from the hearts of the teacher and the kids, and not from another adult’s idea of what a year-end party should be.

So, how can you keep year-end frenzy at bay, for yourself, your family, and possibly a class or group?

Check in with yourself and others. Ask yourself and your family members if you’d prefer some down-time to attending one more activity, or taking part in just one segment of a multi-part event.

Give yourself permission to sit some events out. You probably know if an event is too much for your child or your family. Try to honor everyone’s limits. There will be ample opportunity for more celebrations in the future. Also, look at each event practically. If younger siblings can attend, if everyone is fed — these things might make an event more palatable,  workable and fun.

As a parent, You don’t have to volunteer for every task. It’s nice to do your part, and volunteering can be a lot of fun. It can also allow you to make the most of each activity and not feel as if they are flying by. However, do listen to your gut if it tells you you’re taking on too much or the wrong thing. Sometimes well-meaning parents create very complicated activities and projects that ultimately don’t have a lot of meaning for the kids (or for you). I wish I would have extricated myself from a couple of those.

Create some unstructured family time. It will take some extra effort when things are especially hectic, but that’s just when you need some unstructured time the most. As counter-intuitive as this may sound, if you need to write it in your calendar, do so. Take an afternoon to lie on the grass and watch the clouds, or take a family walk in your neighborhood. Pull a chair outside at twilight and watch the first stars come out. Eat a simple dinner as a family. Let yourself get so bored that time actually seems to slow down, or keep a free day open to do whatever you really feel like that morning.

Spend time in nature. Nature truly does have a way of relaxing and rejuvenating both body and spirit. It can be just the antidote to a hectic schedule. Children and adults can experience awe in nature in a deep, profound way. It’s also often a great place to run around and let off steam, or, conversely, to be contemplative and quiet in the midst of a busy season. Nature also provides a wonderful perspective and a place of fresh wonder that has little to do with the busy-ness of modern life.

Let children be children. Consider which events have the most meaning for your children and prioritize those. Try not to feel pressured to participate in an event or a schedule that doesn’t feel right for your family. If you are in any position to help plan the activities, try to keep the playful, and the age-appropriate meaningfulness, in mind. Perhaps others will follow your lead.

Discuss your child’s feelings. Despite the celebratory nature of the events, some children will feel a tremendous amount of confusion or dismay about the passage of time or the possible change that it brings. Others may be overwhelmed by any celebration or attention. Try to allow some time and space for children to express themselves and their needs.

Get enough sleep. Force yourself and your children to go to bed at a reasonable hour (possibly even unwinding a bit before bed). Save some tasks for another day — they’ll still be there. Getting enough rest, eating well, and treating yourself well are fundamental tools in warding off the stress of a busy schedule.

Let go of perfection. The end of the year can mean houseguests or the hosting of meals. So, to our busy schedules, we add the task of making our homes appear perfect. Clean what you reasonably can and let the rest go. If people have come to celebrate you and yours, that includes your home in its glorious imperfection. Besides, most people don’t look at our houses with the same critical eye we do.

Charge up the camera batteries, bring some Kleenex, and Enjoy the rituals. If you are attending a full-fledged graduation or similar rite of passage or achievement, delight in the moment and the celebrant and enjoy the blessings of family and well-wishers.

And, if all this still doesn’t help, remember that things will be relatively quiet soon.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

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9 responses to “10 Ways to Calm End-of-the-School-Year Frenzy

  1. Excellent post, as usual my dear. Couldn’t have said any of this better myself. as a single person, i didn’t get why the end of May is such a distracting time. now i understand better what my patients are going through.

    i have nothing to add. this is complete and thoughtfully written. in fact, my blog post today is going to be a link to yours.

    be well.

    • Hi Kath! Thank you so much for coming and posting. I so appreciate your wisdom and your perspective — as usual! I’m glad that the blogging life has gotten us better in touch on an almost daily basis. Happy June!

  2. How did you know just what I needed to hear?! Great post & thanks as always for supporting the notion that less is more! :)

  3. That’s a great one! Seems so common sense, but it’s good to hear some reminders. Anytime there’s an upset in our normal routine, the kids get a little anxious. I try to treat June as one great big transition to our slower summer schedule.

  4. Hi Debi and Michele! Thanks for visiting and for your nice comments and camaraderie. You’re smart, Michele, to treat June as one big transition. I’m probably the one in my family who has the hardest time with June every year! There’s always some relief when summer comes and you can just slide into that schedule. I think it’s the lead-up and the attendant busy-ness that makes me anxious. (My daughter’s usually fine!)

  5. Love this post! Things get all out of control. Kids need to have time in summer to do nothing! Of course, you have to have a routine and things to enrich their lives, but seriously they also need time to WASTE!!!

  6. Hi there, Weekend Cowgirl! I so agree with you. Each summer, I’ve actively scheduled a mix of camp (because camp is such a unique experience), family vacation (because those provide fun family experiences and memories away from home), and just plain ol’ down time.

    I also promote down time throughout the year, on weekends, after school, and often in lieu of organized activities. Like you, I believe that kids need time to be kids and figure out how to entertain themselves. I also prefer mine to be doing something active — either playing (outside if the weather’s nice) or creating something.

    Thanks again for the comment.

  7. Hi Suz!

    Happy Summer – I love this post – I was feeling so overwhelmed and inadequate for the past two weeks until I realized that it was the “end of school” ramp up which does seem to rival the winter holidays for stress levels. Today was our first day of official summer. We slept in until 9:30.It felt practically illegal. Later we got down to shooting some baskets at the park and sitting under the oaks doing nothing. Incredibly beautiful day. And my dirty little secret is, I plan to do “nothing” again tomorrow! Thanks for the inspiration and permission.

    • Hi Nicole! Happy summer! It’s always wonderful to see you here. I so agree that the end of school rivals winter holidays and even the fall back-to-school ramp up for stress. Part of this is due to a kind of forced celebration and busy-ness that doesn’t suit many kids and families. And I think part of that is brought on by our sincere desire for rituals and closure, and our unique cultural way of thinking that “more is more”, especially when it comes to parenting.

      Isn’t it fun to be more leisurely, and really enjoy the moments and activities? Experts tell us that “small moments” often account for some of the happiest childhood memories, but in our rush to do more, we forget that. I’m glad you’re enjoying the start to your summer! (I’m finding mine more leisurely, too. More family bike rides, walking and games.)

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