Embracing Endings: How to Talk to Your School Community About the Onset of Summer

By Laurel Lisovskis, BSW

Part 4 in our Share the Wealth series. Click to read other Share the Wealth posts.

For those of us who live by the academic calendar, this time of year can be FULL. We are buried in our schedules and immersed in the programs, activities, and relationships we have cultivated over the year. Off-hours obligations abound, and the day’s end often finds us drained. This is the time of year where deadlines rule us, and Mondays stalk us over the weekend, compressing our already stacked to-do lists with residue from the week before. It is no wonder that our awesome students aren’t the only ones running and screaming from the building come the end of the year.

Along with this pregnant time of year comes another, more subtle feeling: a slightly disconcerting, uneasy one in the back of our minds. For if we look up and out, we can see quite clearly that good-byes are looming. Behind the hustle and bustle and work and play are our wonderful service users—the people for whom we do the work, and it will soon be time to part ways.

Even if we do see them again, it is not in the same capacity. People move, kids move on, systems fluctuate, providing different roles for employees . . . It is life, right? This reason alone is enough to consider that the learning opportunities for “termination practices” are critical. It is a part of our work to share and model how to talk about endings and how to acknowledge them. In embracing this part of the relationship process, we are honoring it.

Here are three amazing practices that Bethel Schools are using to reach out to the population regarding the onset of summer and the closing of school facilities.

1) Pre-Summer Panel
Summer Panel TeacherTraining by Thelmadatter via wikimedia commonsOur district’s licensed clinical social worker is the hub of mental health–related activities in the district. Housed in the health center, she sees many families, and so she naturally sees the benefit of assembling a panel of local providers to speak to district staff, especially school counselors, nurses, and, if they can swing it, key EAs (educational assistants) because they spend a lot of time talking to kids. We will meet for an hour and a half toward the end of the school day in the district office. The point of the panel is to feed schools information so they can make parents and students aware of what mental health/prevention/wellness services are available in the community. The agencies are being asked to give a brief presentation or provide a menu of options regarding how families can access their services. Panelists will disseminate information for ten minutes each and bring flyers and brochures for staff to take back to their respective schools, and then we’ll have some time for Q and A.

This annual event was very well attended last year, and is a simple, easy, incredibly logical way for important information to get passed along to students and families as they let go of district facilities and resources for the summer months. The panel for Bethel this year is made up of the representatives from the City of Eugene Parks and Recreation, Whitebird Clinic (crisis and resource-oriented), Centro Latino Americano, Trillium (our version of Medicaid), and the Oregon Family Support Network (counseling service-oriented).

2) Summer Supervision Skills Training for Parents
Many school counselors, check-in/check-out coordinators, and front office staff have been an ear for parents over the year, listening to the challenges faced around the struggle for adolescent independence versus the uncompromising need for safety. For these parents, it can be good to offer tools for summer supervision.

Summer Saftey Tips handout cover imageWhether it’s a handout, a group meeting, or simply a phone consultation, working parents who need some guidance for summer survival while they work will welcome relevant and realistic information. By this time of year, it is all about meeting parents where they’re at and providing useful tools for monitoring from a far. I am using Summer Supervision Skills from Project Alliance, an agency in Portland that works closely with students and family-school partnerships to achieve academic success. The skills include things like knowing your child’s friends and peers, setting clear rules and limits based on achievable goals, and partnering with other known parents in the neighborhood to ensure safety based on supervision methods like unannounced drop-ins. For this weary and wary crew of parents, creative solutions are welcomed and embraced.

3) Terminating Relationships for Individual Therapy
Letting kids know that with the end of the year comes the end of the counseling can be uncomfortable, and we often avoid it. With the right tools, however, this process doesn’t have to be unpleasant. In fact, it can even be empowering. student and teacher goodbye by Olivisr via wikimedia commonsBuilding a self-care plan, identifying safe adults, and reminding kids about summer activities can be helpful. Use that good information you got from attending/organizing your district’s pre-summer panel! It may be critical to provide gentle reminders and psycho-education around the benefits of taking psych meds with regularity over the summer and keeping up on prescriptions. These are just a few examples.

So, readers, as you wrap up your school year, consider having some conversation about the things that are available to your beloved students and their families. Ask yourself what you can share toward the goal of helping everyone have a healthy, happy summer. Having intentional termination activities, be they community-focused, group, or individual, is pretty much a sure bet to resting a little easier—and embracing our own summer experiences with clarity and a sense of completion.

Laurel LisovskisLaurel Lisovskis, BSW, is in her second year of graduate school working toward clinical licensure in social work at Portland State University. Her field placement is at the school-based Bethel Health Center, one of the innovative programs conceived through an alliance between state healthcare initiatives and public schools to bring services directly to students and families at school sites. Her intern experience includes doing individual and group therapy, as well as traditional social work roles such as resource utilization, collaboration with internal and external supports, and case management. Laurel is also working within the clinical setting to streamline integrated care services. With over ten years of expertise in counseling in both healthcare and public school domains, she lends a unique perspective of the connectivity between mental health and the well-being of middle school student populations.

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