Ahh, spring fever is in full swing and summer is right


around the corner. Summer tends to be a more relaxing time of year for many

families—it’s also a transitional period.

School and childcare programs are either ending or winding

down, your work hours may be shifting or lightening, and the whole family may

be planning for special outings or a vacation.

While a lighter schedule probably sounds like welcome relief

to you, your child may be reacting quite differently. At this time of year I

get many more requests for help from parents—my child is regressing, whining

more, waking up at night or refusing to go to bed, and throwing more tantrums!

What’s going on?


What’s

going on? It is

the anticipation that a shift in their routine is fast approaching that your

child is reacting to. Remember—endings and change are tough on toddlers. This

includes the end of school, even if your child will return in the fall or

attend a summer camp at school.

With no sense of time, these changes and endings can feel

confusing and often scary.

Recently at the Toddler Center, where I have the pleasure of

living in the toddler world with young learners, one of our teachers announced

to the children that school would soon be closing for the summer.

One 3-year-old immediately blurted out, “Oh no! School is

closing, oh no!” as he punched his

fist in the air.

I suspect this is how most children feel as the

year winds down. We always tell the children that school closes for summer and

that’s not your fault. Children sometimes think they caused their

friends and teachers to go away.

Here’s what you can do to make the summer a smooth transition for your toddler.

Don't force goodbyes.

As the end of school approaches, I hear lots of parents

report that their children are regressing or falling apart.

Goodbyes and change can be unsettling and every child has

their own way of handling it.

One of my own children used to avoid goodbyes to friends,

family members, and teachers by simply walking out on play dates or leaving

school at the end of the day without a word. This was his way of avoiding a

hard goodbye.

Since then, he has learned how to handle his feelings in

tough situations and I’m proud to say he’s become a well-mannered teenager who politely

says ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’

Pro tip: Give your child the space he or she

needs to wrestle with their feelings. Don’t force them into saying goodbye if

they seem resistant. Instead, you can say goodbye for them. That way, you model

it without any pressure on your child.

Be aware of your own reaction.

Adults don’t often like goodbyes either. You, too, may have

to say goodbye to a favorite teacher and a community you embraced.

Graduating to a new school for kindergarten or first grade

is also a reminder that your child is growing up. With growing up comes a sense

of loss.

Recognize your own feelings, too.

Celebrate.

A good way to mark endings and the completion of the year in

a joyful way is to plan a small celebration at home, or out with friends and

extended family. This concretely marks the occasion for your child, in a

positive way, and helps gives them closure.

Make an end-of-year cake or have a celebratory picnic or

play date with friends in a nearby park.

Create a ‘memory list’ with your child that lets them recall

all the fun things that happened at school. Have them decorate it and hang on

the wall to celebrate the year.

Paint pictures, make cards, or purchase small gifts like

flower seeds, bubbles, or sidewalk chalk for their teacher and classmates.

It’s nice to mark these passages in a celebratory way.

A girlfriend and I took our children to a

special ice cream parlor on the last day of school for years. We walked there

together with our kids and ate ice cream on the same bench each year. It became

our marker of the last day of school. Rituals like this help your child

transition more easily.

Stay in the present.

Once you’ve had a joyful celebration that marks the school

year winding down, you may be tempted to turn to next year. I advise you to

hold off on that. Better to downplay talk about a new teacher, school, or

kindergarten starting.

For your child, fall is an eternity away. Let your toddler enjoy summer first. You will, too.


For more insights on how to promote lifelong success in your little one year-round, check out my book, How Toddlers Thrive.

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