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School Counseling Termination Ideas

The word “termination” may elicit some heavy feelings for students (and counselors!). Because of this, it can be something we try to avoid. However, termination is an incredibly important part of the counseling process. Termination happens for a number of reasons:

  • The student met their goals (yay!)
  • A group is coming to an end
  • The school counselor is leaving the school
  • A child is leaving the school (relocating or moving to their next school)

Without proper termination, we can (unintentionally) cause harm to students, particularly students with a trauma background. Effective termination can instead be empowering! In this post we will look at how to prepare for a successful termination and some ideas for activities to use in the termination process.

Preparing for Termination

Preparation for termination should start early to allow time for developmentally-appropriate conversations with students and time for transitional activities. Some tips for these conversations:

  • Use clear and direct language about what is happening
  • Provide a timeline that is as specific as possible (you can likely be more specific with groups than with individuals!)
  • Answer questions with empathy and as much honesty as you are comfortable with
  • Preview what the process will be like and assure them that they will be supported

Termination Activities

Games

Games can be used in so many wonderful ways in school counseling and termination is another example of that. Playing a game with your kiddo(s) can bring a bit of levity to what can be a difficult conversation.

You can choose to create your own game specific to the group or student like Bingo, scavenger hunts, DIY board games, roll and responds, etc. Any of these games, and many others, can be used for processing feelings about counseling ending or reviewing concepts learned by using them along with prompts like:

  • “What is one of your favorite memories from counseling/group?”
  • “What are two feelings that you have about our time together ending? Why?”
  • “What is something you wish we talked about more?”
  • “What is something you learned about worry/self-control/friendships/etc. that you want to keep doing?”
  • “What is different now from when we first started?”

Here are a few examples of these types of games:

thoughts, feelings, actions board game
A review and practice board game from our Worry and Anger Group.

Or, when using games for this purpose, you can use the termination or transition prompts within our Any Game Counseling Prompts. These can be used with games you might already have in your counseling office like Candy Land, Jenga, Chutes and Ladders, etc.

termination prompt and game

The prompts mentioned above can also be used as task cards. Because of the versatility of task cards, they are another great option for a termination activity. To keep it simple, you can put the prompts onto cards or pieces of paper and read and respond to them. Or, you can expand this activity by creating a scavenger hunt, use them as Headbandz cards or include them in game play. Check out this blog post for some other ideas about how to use them in a fun and engaging way!

Books

Books can be mirrors where children can see their own situations, experiences, ideas and identities, reflected in the story. This can be especially powerful when it comes to termination. Children can use the characters within books to make sense of this transition and their feelings about it. A few books that can be helpful during this process include:

The Invisible String

A perfect book to discuss separation anxiety, grief, or in this case, a difficult “goodbye”. Siblings Liza and Jeremy are troubled by the idea of separation until their mother explains they are always together, no matter what. Puzzled, the story follows the children on a journey to understand that no matter where in the world we are or what we face, we are all connected an invisible string – love.

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Don’t Be Afraid To Drop

This is a story about transitions and embracing change. The main character, Hopp the raindrop, is comfortable in his life, but learns there is so much more to life beyond his comfort zone. His story creates a mirror for children that allows them to see themselves as risk-takers, agents of change, and encourages them to take on their own transitional period with courage.

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The End Is Just The Beginning

This beautifully illustrated story encourages readers to reframe everyday experiences, like sunsets, as beginnings rather than endings. Consider this book for children reaching the end of their time at your school or the end of their counseling journey who are holding on to this being “the end”.

check it out

Art

For some children, engaging in a hands-on craft can be cathartic. It offers an outlet for both creativity and emotions and allows for free exploration and self-expression. When using a craft to process termination, there are two avenues you can go: open-ended or directive.

Open-Ended

When your goal is to support the students’ emotional responses to termination, you may keep it more opened ended. For some students, you won’t need a prompt. But others may benefit from a prompt like, “I wonder if you would like to create something to describe how you are feeling” or “Today, let’s use some of these supplies to describe something you learned during our time together” and allow access to supplies like:

  • Clay: Having clay available with an invitation to create will give students the space to create something that represents how they are feeling. They may want to talk about what they create, or they may not.
  • Painting or Drawing: Much like clay, having supplies for children to draw or paint how they are feeling provides them with a low-stakes avenue to express whatever big feelings they are having about counseling coming to an end.
  • Collaging: Have magazines, newspapers, stickers, paper, and writing materials available for students to create a collage. They may use this activity to process, reflect, dream. etc.
Directive

When your goal is to reflect on how they have grown through their counseling journey, you can engage in activities like:

  • Letter Bead Bracelet or Keychain: Using colorful and letter beads, students can create a bracelet or keychain with a word, phrase, or affirmation on it that celebrates something they have worked on, learned, or will remember.
  • Past and Future Hands: Students trace each of their hands (maybe with some help!) and on one hand, they record thoughts, behaviors, etc. that they started counseling with, things they want to let go of. On the other hand, they write or draw what they want to hold on to, what they have learned from counseling.
  • Recording Memories: Different projects can be a fun way to memorialize children’s time in counseling and help them recall how they’ve grown and what they’ve learned. Here are a few examples of this kind of project:
squash book used for reflection during termination session

Each section of the squash represents a different session or skill from our resiliency group that students can add details or notes from – then the whole thing “squashes” into a small square!

From our healthy friendships group where kiddos celebrate what has stuck with them and how they have grown.

Sand/Rice Tray

This may or may not be a tool that you have available to you, but it is one worth mentioning as an option because of its usefulness when it comes to processing emotions for younger children or children with varying verbal abilities. I talk more about using a sand tray here, if you’re looking for more information!

Planning

For students who are nervous about transitioning out of counseling, it can be helpful to provide them with a bit of reassurance through planning how they will use everything they have learned.

  • Safety Plan: Some students really thrive in the structure of school and depend on the relationships they engage in at school. For these students, transitioning to school breaks, especially long breaks like summer, a safety plan can be helpful. Outline what their days will look like (as much as you can), who safe people are, safe places, and define what to do in certain situations that may spike their worry, anger, etc.
  • Coping Skills Plan: In counseling, you likely built a metaphorical toolbox of coping skills so prior to termination, it can be helpful to give them a literal box of coping skills! You can do this either by drawing it or by using a tissue box, small shoe box, pencil box, etc. Have students decide which tools they will like to access and add them to their toolbox!
  • Support System: Who will support them after this transition? How and when will they be able to access them? This social support activity can be a helpful takeaway for these conversations.

Reviewing Student Growth

Some students may like to tangibly see how they have grown in counseling. In groups and when working with individuals, we often monitor their progress through methods like pre- and post-tests, weekly point sheets, and scaling. When working through the termination process, it can be helpful to share some of that data with students to help them appreciate their growth.

You can also pull data from:

  • Attendance
  • Behavior Referrals
  • Teacher Observations

Party

Depending on the composition of the group and how students are feeling about termination, a little party can also be a fun way to end! You can bring in (school-approved) snacks and host a picnic of sorts. This can also be combined with other activities like reviewing growth, reading a book, playing games, or doing a creative activity.

All of our group counseling curriculums include closing activities and you can check them out here:

Small Group Counseling Bundle

Eight engaging, skills-based, and complete counseling curriculums to use with your small groups (or individuals!) to address themes of friendship, self-control, social skills, emotional regulation, and more!

Perfect for social emotional behavioral MTSS, IEP counseling, or group counseling within your school counseling program.

I NEED THIS

How To Share with the School That You’re Leaving

When you are leaving your position, it’s also beneficial to think about termination from another perspective – termination from the whole school community! Leaving a position also means leaving the staff/faculty, students you know but didn’t work super closely with, families, and community supports. This can be overwhelming, especially in large school communities, communities where you have worked for a long period of time, or communities where you both live and work.

When preparing for this, you may:
  • Create a list of who you would like to tell first. Are there certain students, colleagues, or families you would like to tell personally?
  • Decide how you will announce your news to adults in the community. Some may choose to disclose at a staff meeting or you may send the announcement via email or newsletter.
  • Be ready to answer questions about why you are leaving and decide how much you are comfortable sharing.
  • Work with your administration on a transition plan. How can you work together to ensure the next counselor is ready to step in? How will that transition happen? Are there any ongoing projects that need to be delegated?
  • Plan to tell the classes you work with. When you are announcing that you are leaving, create space for the classes you teach to share that news directly with them, answer questions, and give them pertinent details like when you are leaving and what supports will be available to them. If you are in a school that participates regularly in circles, this could be a great avenue to use! It may also be helpful to follow this discussion with some kind of art or other “fun” activity. When you do this may be something you discuss with your administrative team. It will likely align with when you tell staff and families because you don’t want students, especially those you are close with, to hear from someone else first. Some people do it as soon as they share the news with their admin, some choose to wait until closer to the end of the year.

Termination, while challenging, is a necessary and important part of our role as school counselors. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. When preparing for any type of transition this year, keep in mind some of the activities listed here and always remember to take care of yourself, too!

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Hello, I’m Sara!

With 10 years of experience in
elementary school counseling,
I get to serve in a different way now
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I value quality over quantity,
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Sara

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