The end of the school year is typically celebrated with parties, fun activities and gestures of appreciation to teachers. But with schools closed due to COVID-19 and social distancing, those plans are not able to come to fruition. This leaves many kids disappointed that they won’t see their friends and teachers one last time. Luckily there are things you can do to help your kiddo deal with anxiety and confusion. Here are 10 ways to celebrate the end of the school year.

1. Do something to mark the end of the school year. Melanie Ross Mills, Ph.D., a relationship counselor, believes it's important for kids to have a sense of closure on their school year. To do that, make sure you celebrate the last day at home and talk about what accomplishments your kids achieved this academic year.

2. Keep the end of the school year traditions alive. Just because your kiddo did not finish the school year at their physical school building does not mean you shouldn't stick with your family traditions. For example, if you take "last day of school" photos or have a pizza dinner to celebrate, keep that custom going. Sticking to traditions will help your kiddo feel a sense of normalcy.

3. Empathize with feelings of disappointment. It's easy to try to make your kids feel better by focusing on positive "silver linings" to the end of the school year. But Melissa Marote, Doctoral level Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, says that parents also need to show empathy and validate the feelings of sadness and loss their kids are experiencing.

4. Keep connections going. So many kids are feeling sad and anxious because they can't physically interact with their friends each day. Build time into your summer schedule for kids to have Zoom playdates or FaceTime their friends. Keeping those connections strong through technology will help kids feel less isolated during this uncertain time.

5. Celebrate the teachers. There are lots of ways you and your kids can show appreciation for their teachers from home. Pick up a gift card and send it in the mail. Make homemade cards and drawings for them. Or have a drive-by parade of gratitude.

6. Have a virtual graduation. It's tough if you can't celebrate the end of elementary school or kindergarten graduation. But your family can virtually celebrate through a Zoom sing-a-long, a car parade or chalk drawings on the sidewalk.

7. Host a virtual spirit week. Sameer Hinduja of the Cyberbullying Research Center suggests continuing schools' spirit week dress-up days—but virtually. Kids can still dress up for pajama day and superhero day, and parents can share the photos on social media with a school spirit week hashtag.

8. Don't give up routines. Erin A. Harper, Ph.D., NCSP, an assistant professor of school psychology at Texas A&M University-Commerce, encourages families to keep routines in place. Even if the structure will change from the school year to summer, routine helps kids feel safe and less anxious.

 

9. Organize a Zoom class party. If you're a room parent and had plans to organize a classroom party, take the planning virtually. Create a list of activities like singing, sharing special memories and an art activity that all the kids can do from home.

10. Incorporate missing spring and year-end activities into summer plans. Dana Dorfman, Ph.D., psychotherapist, suggests asking your kiddos what they miss most about school or the spring sport they were not able to play and then make those activities part of your family's summer plans. For example, if your little one was excited to participate in the school jog-a-thon, join a virtual kids running club in June or July.

— Leah R. Singer