The end of the school year for most Montessori adolescents is a mix of emotions. On the one hand, these are people whose development typically includes an understanding of time, loss, and endings. They appreciate what it means to end one school year and they are astute in their ability to name their own emotional response and to talk through the challenges that saying goodbye can bring. At the same time, because most Montessori schools don't continue through High School (yet!) your Montessori ThirdPlaner might be saying goodbye in a much more significant way than in previous years, when they were just leaving for the summer.
In other words, the goodbye may be more lasting and the ability to feel its loss more profound.
Don't underestimate it. Even if it is not your child's last year at school, it's likely that they are saying goodbye to peers who they have been in community with for a while. For the graduating third years, this brings both an excitement about what life will be like next and a deep nostalgia for the experiences they're leaving behind. For the rising third years, this brings both an eagerness to take the lead and a sadness for the friends on whom they've relied for years. It's a complicated time, to say the least.
Notice what their teachers do to prepare and respond: This is a time of year that's often ripe with both ritualized transitions, like formal end-of-school ceremonies, and abundant play. Teachers in the Third Plane know that the need for physical movement is still high, especially during more emotional periods for adolescents, and they offer more group activities that allow learners to use their bodies. Prioritize these, even if they don't feel academic. Every day with their friends right now is an important day, whether it's spent reading poems they've written to honor the classroom community or hiking with their class at a local park. Learners at this age can be sentimental about their time together, a real need that demands satisfaction if they are going to feel resolved about their transition.
Help your child to identify the personal means of honoring this change that will help them to articulate the range of emotions they might be feeling now. Maybe they'd like to journal about their hopes for the next year. Maybe they're like to create a piece of art to mark the end of this year. Maybe they'd like to go to the lake together to spend time around a campfire sharing memories with friends. Maybe they'd like to build a scrapbook. Let them plan an event or activity that acknowledges that saying goodbye matters and that it demands space and time to process.
Also, help your child to identify the shared means of honoring the change that help to resolve their changing relationships with friends or teachers. Traditional thank-you notes are always appropriate, but this is a time when many teens may want to delve more deeply, writing longer letters to the people who've shared this experience with them. Encourage them to talk about those relationships with you, and to think about what they want to do to protect them moving forward. Be realistic. You might not be at a place from which you can promise that you'll help your child to see their school friends every weekend, but you can assure them that, yes, change is hard and that you will support their efforts to maintain their friendships from school after school has ended.
Be present with and for your child during this time of the year. If their school hosts special traditions, be sure to participate as much as you can. Talk to your child beforehand about your own need to say goodbye, if your family is transitioning. Be authentic in the emotions you're experiencing during this change, modeling that there is both joy and sadness at the end of the school year and that it's ok to feel and express both. Model the strategies you might encourage in your children (especially writing those thank-you letters!) and be candid with them about both the range and unpredictability of sentiments that arise.
Their Montessori community, especially if they've attended a school since early childhood, is a meaningful and irreplaceable part of their development. Honor it with them as you accompany them through this ending, and trust that it has helped to prepare them for what is coming next.