By Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
If your children are like most children they are probably already counting down the days until the end of the school year. It won’t be long now and they'll be on their way home singing, humming or thinking that familiar refrain, "Schools out. Schools out. Teachers let the monkeys out."
Not all students will be glad the school year is ending. But most of them probably will. So what is an effective parent to do now? Let them slide slowly into summer? Throw a party? Start lining up summer activities?
Whoa. Hold on. There is one important step that needs to be taken before the summer can officially begin for you and your children. This is the perfect time to debrief the ending school year. It is time to bring closure to this important year of learning by thinking about it, talking about it, and becoming conscious about what transpired and what lessons were there for us.
Debriefing can be as simple as discussing a few questions around the dinner table.
• What were you hoping to accomplish this year?
• How did it work out?
• What surprised you?
• Is there anything left over that you wished you had learned?
Debriefing can be as complicated as a full evening on the floor in the living room discussing the past year's experiences.
• Marking the moment with a toast, high-fives, or a round of applause
• Telling about a favorite teacher or book
• Describing the hardest assignment of the year
• Telling the biggest challenge you overcame
• Discussing the process of learning
• Honoring social accomplishments
• Venting, sharing strong feelings, getting it all out
• Moving on to . . .
Whether debriefing is short or long, done in one evening or over a weekend, whether it is done on the couch, at the kitchen table or in the hot tub, here are some important considerations.
Don't make it about grades or test scores. Instead, make it about your children’s passion, mission and purpose. What did they discover about who they are and where they want to go?
Don't make it about algebra, history or book reports. Make it about the process of learning. What did they learn about the concept of learning? What questions do they still have about how learning happens?
Don't make it about rewards. Make it about celebrating with verbal congratulations. Make your appreciation and affirmation verbal rather than monetary or physically tangible.
Don't make it exclusively about what they didn’t do. Yes, you can ask them about regrets or missions unaccomplished. Mostly make it about what was accomplished. What do they feel they did well?
What do they want to pat themselves on the back for?
Don’t make it about results. Make it about the process, effort, and energy. Where did you see persistence, determination, or patience? Where did they?
Don't make it about what they learned from school. Make it about what they learned about school. What do they know about school now that they didn't know before? What did they learn about teachers, classmates and extracurricular activities?
Don't make it about telling. Make it about listening. Yes, you can give some nonevaluative descriptions of what you observed. And mostly listen to their interpretation of their experience with their school year.
Don't make it totally about what happened on the outside. Make part of it about what happened on the inside. How did they feel inside about the events that unfolded? What feelings did they have about the results they produced, the effort they put into it, and the difference that effort made?
Don't make it all about looking back. You can’t drive a car by continually looking in the rearview mirror. Make it about looking at what is and where they are going. What did they learn and what do they want to do with that learning? What did they learn that they can put to use in their lives? What are some new goals for the summer and next year?
The end of this school year is an important passage in your children’s lives whether they are graduating from high school or moving from second to third grade. Give this passage the recognition it deserves by debriefing it with seriousness and caring.
Acknowledge this ending, bring closure to it, and enjoy your summer.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of Parent Talk Essentials. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free Uncommon Parenting blog. To obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today: www.uncommon-parenting.com