All over the country, kids of every age are leaving home and venturing out into the world and for most of those kids, the world is the school yard or college campus. And some of us are sending our wee ones off for the first time, whether to daycare, pre-school, kindergarten or somewhere else that constitutes their first time on their own, outside of our home for even just a few hours. I’ll never forget the first day of school for each one of my children – the memories are as bittersweet as the longer-term goodbyes are today.
I was reminded of those first, short-term goodbyes last week by one of my good friends, who said goodbye to her oldest child at pre-school. She called me with a choked-up voice and told me how seamless it went. “Seamless?” I said, “Then why are you crying?” I asked. “Because… because I needed the goodbye hug more than she did.”
Many of us have had these seamless transitions from home to school with children who are confident and excited for the next phase in their life. But many of us have had the opposite. The child who doesn’t want to let go and cries a lot the first few weeks of school. If you live with a child who is having a hard time transitioning into pre-school or kindergarten, the only thing I can say is, “hang in there.” As hard as it may seem at this moment, your child will get through it.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Have faith in your kids and their ability to rebound. Make sure that you have a strong connection with the child before you say goodbye, but then say goodbye with faith that they will be okay.
- Have faith in yourself and the fact that you made the decision to send your young one off after serious thought. You can feel good about that. You will be required to do much tougher stuff than this as they grow and spend more time away from home.
- When you see each other again, be sure to spend a few minutes just connecting before you start asking dozens of questions. Whether they are sobbing in your arms or they have a smile that extends from one ear to the next – connect.
- Let the child set the pace for answering your questions. Some kids want to share every aspect of their day and other children are ready to move on and leave the day in the past. Take your cues from the kids, not from your own curiosity or fear.
The truth is, all of our children will experience change and transition into new experiences many times throughout the course of their lives. Some of those transitions will be seamless and others, not so much. All we can do, as parents, is support them, listen to them, encourage them and hope that we need the goodbye hug more than they do.