Spring Semester Blues and How Parents Can Help
I wrote awhile back on how to beat the winter blues. I completely left something out, though. It’s something I noticed from both working in and attending school: The “Spring” semester sucks! After all, the majority of the semester is actually Winter.
Why is the Spring (Winter) Semester So Bad?
I’ll tell you why. In the Fall semester, you get Fall break, Thanksgiving break, Labor Day, and ultimately a long Winter break. Those breaks are great. When you’re a high school or college student, those breaks are very much needed. They prevent burnout. They’re something to look forward to. They’re milestones. They’re the one thing you’re trying to reach, and they bring so much relief.
That doesn’t happen in the Spring semester. It starts out with bad weather and just gets worse for about 2 months (at least here in Middle Tennessee it does). You’re “in the thick of it” when it comes to your class work. You have Spring break to look forward to and little else. You’re willing to do anything to get the sky to open up and release 12 inches of snow on the ground, for just one day off.
You ran the student race as hard as you could, and your legs were just about to give out in mid-December. Now you have to go back and run the second half of the race. Only this time, there are less aid stations (off days) and on partially rested legs (Winter break vs. Summer break). It’s the perfect scenario for wearing sunglasses that are tinted to the point that you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel (which is obviously the end of the semester for our purposes here).
In the final quarter of the school year, I’ve had high school seniors who’ve looked at me like I have 2 heads when I talk about almost being to the end – because 9 weeks seems like an eternity.
If You’re Older Than 30, Listen Up!
For what it’s worth, I’m older than 30. Teenagers usually do not think and see time in the same way that you do. Young adults in their early 20’s don’t either in a lot of cases. No matter how many speeches you give or how many times you calmly explain it, you can’t just change brain development, which is what this is. That’s not to say that our youth aren’t smart. I talk to them 5 days per week, and I can tell you they’re brilliant. But when you live your life in school years, the Spring semester twists your view on time – and it can kill your mood (I know for a fact that a lot of teachers also get to this point, and if you work in a school then you’ll see why).
So, what can you do as a parent?
- Try really hard to put yourself in their shoes. You may have to try extra hard. But that will help out.
- Help your kids feel validated. Just saying “hey it’s only 4 months, and that’s not much compared to the 18 years you’ve been alive” can leave them feeling like you didn’t really hear them.
- Help them identify some other milestones or things to look forward to in the Spring semester.
- Spend some time planning for Spring break or other holidays. If you’re going somewhere as a family, let them be part of planning that vacation. If you’re not, talk with them about what they plan on doing.
- You can also just talk to your kids about what they’re looking forward to in general. They may act like they couldn’t care less, but odds are that it will likely mean something to them. *Try not to come off like you’re interrogating them.
As always, let them know you’re available if they need to talk. School is tough. Socializing in school is tough. Lots and lots of pressure for grades, and test scores, and college applications, and scholarships – that stuff piles on. They may never want to divulge their deepest secrets and feelings to you, but they need to know that they can. That’s security.
Some Parting Details
Sometimes it’s not as simple as the pure hellish hopelessness of the second half of the school year. Your teen or young adult may have plenty of “stuff” going on as it is. Our kids can be dealing with difficult things that we don’t even know about on top of the stress of school and weather and all of the other junk we think about as stressors.
If your teen or young adult is dealing with winter blues, there are all kinds of products and services that can help, from therapy lights to counseling. If you or they feel like they need to talk to someone, my door is always open.