So the end is nearly here. And, predictably, the end of term phenomenon is in full swing.
What do I mean? The end of term craziness that sets in every year, about 2-3 weeks before the final day in school. The increase in energy, incidents, accidents and disclosures. Yes I know many, many children are super excited about the holidays. They are strong and solid and giddy in the affirming knowledge that their adults are equally looking forward to spending more time with them, and have special things planned. There will be fun, adventure, good times and lovely memories…
It is the other children I am talking about. The ones who do not have any sense of the adults in their lives longing to spend more time with them. These are the kids whose adults may actually be dreading the school holiday.
Whether they are some of the many on free school dinners – and parents are honestly not sure how they are going to feed their kids enough over the 6 week break, and aren’t living near a MakeLunch kitchen.
Or maybe theirs are parents who have to keep working and are stressed out trying to figure out childcare options that they can’t afford, mixed with guilt they should be – or want to be – spending time with their child.
Or maybe they have adults or older siblings at home they don’t feel safe with – or they do most of the time, apart from when they are on their own with them… or at night…
For these children the thought of the holidays does not fill them excitement. In fact it is the opposite. They are filled with dread. They probably couldn’t tell you why, but these are the kids who just know they feel horrible in their body. These are the ones who would, honestly, rather keep coming to school. Keep being safe every day. Keep being fed everyday. Keep being with adults who keep them safe and help them grow.
So what happens when children are anxious?
What happens when they are living with the lead weight of impending dread in their stomach? What happens when they feel the threat of the ‘holiday’ everyone else seems to be excited about, growing bigger and closer like a monster coming for them?
They survive. Some do it by increased flight, and literally use the school corridors as their race track. Others increase their capacity to fight. They might not be physical (although many do at this time of year) but they will fight with their words and try to make things be the way they want them. Others may totally shut off and shut down. These are the easy-to-miss silent ones I worry about the most.
When you put 2 children who are struggling on the inside – with different survival patterns – together it gets interesting. When you put many in a classroom of 30+ kids it can get crazy. When you put them with adults who are burnt out, exhausted, and mentally and emotionally already on a beach somewhere, it can get ugly. And the kids get the blame.
The children who are struggling need grounded, attentive, calm, adults around them now more than any time in the year. They need understanding to get through these weeks the best they can.
5 Questions for School Staff to consider
- Do you know any children who might be struggling?
- Where are you at? Can you see a pattern in your level of tired and your amount of smiles or your speed to snap?
- Are you coping by dissociating and not really engaging emotionally or mentally, with them any more – after all it’s nearly the end now…just a few more get-ups?
- Is it wrong for children to feel scared about their impending summer?
- How do these kids need you to be – how can you effectively support them? (Clue: it doesn’t involve getting angry, shouting, or isolations).
Many schools know this phenomenon to be real. Teachers are aware of it and work to keep everyone, including themselves, calm. They pull their pastoral staff off all regular groups at least a week early to have them be more available for responding to the end of term crises. They re-deploy these staff as a focused emergency response support team, without trying to squeeze these kids into an already full timetable which only increases staff stress and makes them less effective in helping these kids.
The best teachers in my opinion, are the ones who can be honest. School’s not out yet… there is still time for some learning – even if it is about ourselves and how we might be responding to these extra tricky kids at the moment.