It is that time of year again—graduations, end of year activities, spring fever, and the transition to summer. There is so much “happening” in the outer world for our students and schools, that it is hard to remember that a lot is also happening in the inner worlds of our students.
What we know is that transitions of all kinds can create more instability and agitation in our youth—and that these are times when we need to pay particular attention to the social and emotional well-being of our youth.
The importance of attending to the inner lives of students during these times of transition is tragically reflected in data on suicide. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics report that suicide rates in the United States are lowest during the winter months and highest in the summer and spring. F. Stephen Bridges asserts that there is “a high incidence in early spring (April and May) and also a low incidence in winter” of suicide rates. In Colorado, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth age 14-25. In our own hometown of the Front Range—we have had a rash of suicides and homicides in the last weeks. Given this disturbing local and national trend, how do we attend to the inner life of our students when we are attending to end of year projects, finals, grades and ceremonies?
What we know is: Relationship matters. Connection matters. And if we can slow down amidst all the activity to take time to invite the emotions of students into the classroom and acknowledge their transitions, we can support them to feel a deeper sense of their own belonging and resourcefulness.
Below are some tips on consciously addressing the transition to the summer months and supporting the inner lives of our students.
- Validate and normalize the whole range of emotions that arise during transition times and support students with practices that help them manage their emotions (mindfulness, time outdoors, self-reflection, etc. Create opportunities for students to reflect on their growth and change and share this with you or the class in writing, speaking, or other artistic activities. ( Note: If you see alarming displays of emotions, pay attention and call on your intervention teams.)
- Ask young people to explore their own strengths and reflect on how they have come through the challenges of their lives. This helps build resilience for the future. (If appropriate, as parents or mentors, share stories about challenges you have overcome or how you have navigated transitions).
- Consider ways you can create opportunities for students/children to authentically give and receive appreciation— in written reflection, art, or speaking practices like council.
- With all the busyness of the end of year, look for windows to incorporate reflection, quiet, and pause. This will support our children to more deeply acknowledge and integrate the changes and shifts that are happening for them. (And this will support us to do the same!)
Here’s renowned educator, Rita Pierson, taking about the importance of relationship and connection in the classroom.
Click on image to watch Rita’s Ted Talk.
Media Continue to Perpetuate Myth of Winter Holiday – Suicide Link
Clauss-Ehlers, Caroline (2010). “Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural School Psychology”. 2: 961.^ Romer, Dan (2001). “Media Continue to Perpetuate Myth of Winter Holiday – Suicide Link” (PDF). The Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Seasonal changes in suicide in the United States, 1971 to 2000
Bridges, F. S.; Yip, P. S. F.; Yang, K. C. T. (2005). “Seasonal changes in suicide in the United States, 1971 to 2000”. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 100: 920–924.
Seasonal effects of suicide rates
Wikipedia contributors. (2019, May 9). Seasonal effects on suicide rates. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:57, May 14, 2019