A school year like no other is drawing to a close, and it’s one that many adults, as well as children, may be pleased to see the back of.
In whatever shape or form they come, endings can be really significant, but are often overlooked in the pursuit of getting something ‘out of the way’, or moving straight onto what’s next on the ‘to-do’ list.
And, while that sums up how so many of us are feeling right now, and the end-of-term sigh of relief may be even bigger than usual, it’s still so important to pay attention to ending it, well.
What does it mean to ‘end well’, and why is it so important?
However trivial, endings are really about change. “Good endings” are at the heart of helping any of us, adult or child, to manage transition and develop healthy relationships with that change, whether it be loss, separation, the unknown etc.
But Covid has brought countless ‘bad endings’, and the only thing that hasn’t changed is never ending-change and unwelcome change… It’s to be expected that so many of us, and especially our children, are developing a pretty unhealthy relationship with change.
Whether they’ve been temporary or permanent, the kids we live and work with have had no power over the unplanned and unexpected endings; bot only in school, but in their friendships and wider relationships, their activities, the stable predictability of life, our plans and their hopes.
But change is an inevitability of life and actually bears many fruits, so; even if it’s not change of their choosing; experiencing change positively, at least making peace with the lack of resolve that may be left behind can leave a meaningful mark.
Endings naturally mark the beginning of whatever comes next, so when activities, lessons, even brief exchanges end well, it helps everyone feel good about time spent together, repair any ruptures and set a positive tone for whatever follows.
Here are ten super-simple ways to bring ‘good endings’ into time spent with children… or adults… or even just yourself…
1. Rituals… Whether it’s a song, an exchange or a shared moment of contemplation, rituals bring consistency, predictability and connection to the beginning or end of time spent together.
2. Recognise everyone’s contribution… Whether it’s a group scrapbook, piece of artwork, or just a discussion, ensure everyone’s contribution is represented.
It’s really about recognising every individual, while cultivating a sense of belonging to a whole.
3. Exchange gratitudes… Asking young people to all verbalise or write an appreciation, for themselves as well as another person, is a wellbeing wonder. It’s a reminder for everyone that we’re capable and competent, combined with a little dose of dopamine.
4. Play a game… Games are often just gap-fillers. But, as long as they’re played in the spirit of fun, they bring everyone together, and give us all the chance to be our whole selves, not just ‘the learner’ or ‘the teacher’ etc.
5. Set a group goal… If you’ll be meeting again, make a collective decision or plan for the next time you meet. Knowing you’re somehow being held in heart and mind during periods of separation is incredibly powerful, especially for those more vulnerable or isolated children.
6. Set individual goals… If you won’t be meeting again, support children in setting individual goals. It helps to builds a sense of personal strength, which can be very affirming when you’re about to disembark from the journey and step into the next one.
7. Make a wish… Whether it’s based on real-life or ridiculousness, making individual or collective hopes and dreams for the future can help everyone step into that future with optimism.
8. Thank… We often say ‘thank you’ in some shape or form, but how often do we really hear it? Share thanks within your group, or with your children. Ensure that everyone not only receives an individual thank you, but that they really hear it and feel it.
9. Share memories… Make time to remember what you’ve done together, enjoyed together, or even where you’ve struggled together. Not all memories have to be happy.
Sadness can be very healing when we let ourselves (and others) feel it. Manage it well, but don’t be afraid of it.
10. Say goodbye… This is a bit like thanking. It’s not about the word, but making sure the meaning and the feeling behind the word leaves its imprint.
It’s not always easy to say, but it brings a sense of closure, which can bring much needed relief and lightness.