There Goes My Baby Part 2: How to Cope When Your Child Leaves for School

first day of school fancy

It’s inevitable. Our children are going to grow up. In a previous post, I shared my own mixed (okay, pretty sad) feelings about my oldest son starting kindergarten in just a few weeks. And, although he’s ready for it, I’m not so sure I am.

Perhaps you’re going through something similar. Maybe your youngest is ready to start kindergarten in homeschooling and you’ve just realized you have no more babies coming up after this one. Maybe you have a child starting middle school, high school, or – gasp! – college. How did we get here? More important, how do we make it through these exciting, bewildering, and, yes, heartbreaking transitions?

Here are some ideas to help us – and our kids -to make it through:

Share our children’s excitement. No child wants to (or should be made to) feel guilty for looking forward to the next chapter of her life. Sure, our inclination might be to freeze time and keep our kids right where they are. But, since we can’t really do that, our next best bet is to have fun with our children as they get ready to turn the next page in the book that is their life. So, have fun together shopping for a new backpack and lunch bag, or decorating school folders. Kids heading off to high school might more so enjoy shopping for new clothes. And any child leaving for college would be happy to stock up on everything essential for dorm living.

Stay rooted in old rituals. As I think ahead to the long days my son will be spending at school (and away from home), I quickly calm my sorrow with reminders that we’ll still enjoy nightly family dinners, weekend outings, and long holidays and summers uninterrupted by strict school schedules. When I think back to my own transition of leaving for college, I still remember that the knowledge that I could return home on weekends or that I’d be home for a long winter break before I knew it helped ease my homesickness. If your child’s only mildly excited about her upcoming milestone, try reminding her of all that’s going to stay the same in her life so she realizes her whole world isn’t being turned upside down.

Enjoy new ways to bond with your child. As parents, we’ve been doing this one from the start. With every new development in our children’s lives, we’ve had to rediscover our relationship with each other. This new milestone asks the same of us. I look forward to the new conversations my son and I will have as he begins the school year. Already, we’ve played on his school playground and chatted about my own school experiences. If you homeschool a new kindergartener, look forward to this new dynamic of your relationship with your child. If your kid’s off to college, send him care packages, cards or letters just to let him know you’re thinking of him (what college kid doesn’t love getting mail?)

Enjoy what this milestone means for you. With every transition our children face, we, parents, experience a transition ourselves. Though you may be saddened by your child starting kindergarten, middle or high school, or college, don’t feel guilty for appreciating the increased one-on-one time you might get with a child who’s still home, or for feeling mild excitement at the thought of taking up that hobby you always wanted to master, or for looking forward to more quality time with your spouse.

When life isn’t constant, remember that God is. Times like these, when it feels like our children are slipping from our grasp, it’s easy to feel uneasy. But, recall that even when we’re shaken, God isn’t. We may be tempted to worry or fear, but the Bible reminds us not to give into it but instead to trust in God, “with whom there is no alteration” (James 1:17). And nothing should bring us more peace in these quickly changing days than our Father who, thankfully, never changes.

Comments

  1. I love that quote you shared, Kim, on watching your children grow up being like looking at the sun. I’ll hold on to that one for sure! My mom always taught me that “our children aren’t ours to keep. They belong to God, and our job is to raise them and send them back to him.” She used to say this when she shared how my grandmother had a very, very hard time letting go of her kids as/when they grew up. It is indeed a continual letting go, as I’m only just learning, and boy is it hard!

  2. Your 2 part series really hits home for me, Michaelyn! My youngest is starting kindergarten this year. Even though we homeschool, it is a bittersweet transition for me, because my sweet little girl is growing up. Before I know it, she will be too big for cuddling in my lap.

    On the other end, my oldest (almost 17), said goodbye to his best friend on Tuesday who is off to college. I have known this boy since he was a little tyke, and he and my son have been best friends for so many years that he was like my own. Not only am I sad to see Aidan’s friend go off to this new stage of life, but it is a reminder to me that I’M NEXT. I’m the next one in my circle of friends who will send a child off to college. I am very emotional about this reality!! It’s not just a loss of who he was at an earlier stage, but when he leaves for college it will be a monumental shift in our family, an emptiness.

    Some moms are not as sentimental as I am. I do love witnessing my children growing up, watching them unfold, but these big transitions are very jarring for me. My sister told me that she heard somebody say on the radio, “Watching your child grow up is like looking at the sun. It’s so beautiful, but it hurts.” That’s how I feel. Of course I would not hold my children back, but part of loving them is a continual letting go. A perpetual farewell.

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