Overwhelmed by All the End of School Activities? Here’s Why We Need to Do Less for Our Kids

end of school year"
end of school year
Source: Canva
Source: Canva

My firstborn is just finishing kindergarten this year, and so far, it’s been an easy transition. He’s taken the bus with few issues, thrived academically, and has even made a handful of new friends. I thought it was going to be smooth sailing until summer—then I got the end-of-the-year calendar. For the last 25 days of school, his class has a different themed activity every day that correlates with the alphabet. “B” is bubble day, “G” is glow party day, “S” is favorite stuffed animal day… you get the idea.

While I’m all for being festive, day after day of special activities seems like overkill. Not only is it stressful for parents to ensure their kid has everything they need to participate each day, but I worry it’s setting our kids up for a lifetime of disappointment. Has the end-of-school-year stress gotten to you, too? Here’s why I think we need to do less for our kids.

The break in routine doesn’t work for all kids

While my son is neurotypical, he often struggles with a break in routine. Being expected to dress in costume, adhere to a theme, or decide whether or not to wear pajamas to school can send him into a panic. And this doesn’t even consider how these themes and expected participation may affect neurodivergent kids

On one pajama day, we had an exceptionally rough morning. My son wanted to participate, but he didn’t feel comfortable wearing PJs to school. At the bus stop, a few other kids didn’t participate, and one was nearly in tears because her dad forgot to remind her of PJ day. It’s times like these that I wonder, is all this extra end-of-school-year stress for everyone really necessary?

We’re all tired

Experts say that kids ages 6 to 12 need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep. With sports, after-school activities, and the inevitable bedtime stalling, my 6-year-old barely gets 10 hours of sleep. That’s why the schedule change was one of the toughest parts of the adjustment from preschool to kindergarten. For us, kindergarten starts early. We’re out the door most mornings by 7:05 a.m. 

In the morning, I am often left deciding whether to give my child a few more minutes of sleep or more time to prepare for the day. Deciding what favorite stuffed animal to pack in his backpack or which hat he should choose wastes precious minutes in the morning and can start our day off with rushing, stress, and the occasional tantrum.

I work part-time, so I have a bit more brain space to allocate to these activities. But working parents may already be in the office when their child leaves for school, or they may not have the time to run to the store for a plain white T-shirt or tube of bubbles for “B” day.

end of school year stress school assembly
Source: Shutterstock

It sets kids up for disappointment

Celebrating our kids isn’t the issue. It’s the over-celebrating that I worry about. From over-the-top birthday parties to gift baskets for every holiday to personalized shirts and signs for every milestone, overdoing it for our kids has become de rigueur.

But I worry that by trying so hard to make every day magical for our kids, we’re actually doing more damage than good. Giving them constant celebrations, material possessions, or over-the-top praise can create kids who are constantly disappointed or materialistic. 

And once they hit their later teen years and eventually, adulthood, their every move won’t be met with a celebration. So how can we expect kids to be intrinsically motivated when they’re used to their every move being celebrated by others? 

“So how can we expect kids to be intrinsically motivated when they’re used to their every move being celebrated by others?” 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fairly involved mom, and I love celebrating my kids’ wins and milestones. I make the magic at Christmas, do the class parties, and try to make them feel special on their birthdays. But there has to be a balance.

How I’m managing the end of school year stress

As for the rest of the 25 days to celebrate the end of school? I’m letting my son decide if—and how much—he’d like to participate, especially since his school has noted that these themed days are not mandatory. I know my biggest job as a parent is to raise good humans. And if that means skipping out on luau day or bring-your-favorite-stuffed-animal-to-school day, I’m OK with that. 

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