06/17/2011 02:00 EDT | Updated 08/17/2011 05:12 EDT

End the School Year on the Right Foot: How to Help Your Kids Finish Strong

Kids and parents alike are white-knuckling it until that last day of school. But wait, not so fast! This is the perfect time to check-in with your kids so they can start to see the bigger picture.

It's that time of year again. Right about now, kids and parents alike are white-knuckling it until that last day of school. Exhausted and ready for a break after 10 months of science projects, spelling tests and friendship drama (not to mention the relentless after school programming, carpooling, and parent teacher meetings) just about everybody is ready to wrap-up the year, and quick.

But wait, not so fast! This is the perfect time to check-in with your kids, whether they're eight or 18, and ask them to take a wide-angle lens to the past year. By looking at the school year through this lens, kids can start to see the bigger picture, beyond their report cards, in order to appreciate their accomplishments and think about their challenges. After all, they now have another year of life experience (you could even call it wisdom) from which to draw upon next year.

Here are some questions that can help your kids see the bigger picture:

1. What was the best part of the year?

2. What was the worst part of the year?

3. Do you have the same friends now as you did at the beginning of the year? If not, why not?

4. Were you a good friend to your friends and were they good to you? How so? If not, is there anything you can do to change things?

5. If you had to give one piece of advice to a kid who will be going into the grade you just finished, what would you tell her?

6. What did you learn about yourself this year?

7. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being GREAT, how would you rate the school year overall?

8. Is there anything that you could do differently next year to make it an even better year?

While academic learning is important, life lessons are just as important. Getting kids to think about the year, themselves and others in these ways helps them to develop greater self-awareness while engendering a sense of personal mastery, self-esteem and ultimately self-worth. By asking kids these questions you are also sending the message that you value their perspective, that what they think matters to you, and that they have choices in many areas of their lives (how to act, who to hang out with, how to handle challenges). Most important, you're also letting them know that part of the success of their year depends on their actions, their attitude and their choices.

If you find your child's answers are more negative than positive, it's really important to understand what changes could help make next year a more positive experience. This might mean more communication with the school to understand what happened this year that didn't work, asking for greater support from the wider school community including social workers, coaches and other parents, or ensuring your child spends more time focusing on activities/subjects that play to his/her strengths. But don't be discouraged; many kids have a tough year here and there. Growing up is hard!

So, now's the time to take and deep breath and remember, you're in the stretch! Help your kids to finish strong by getting them to take that wide angle lens to the past year and empowering them with that view to make next year even better.