Coping with Sending Your Child to School

She’s growing up. She’s already asking to do many things for herself. She’s spent time bent over books (or, these days, her tablet) trying to learn how to read before school even starts. One of her favorite refrains is, “I can do it by myself, mommy.”

You’re so proud of her, but let’s face it – you’re also beginning to grieve a bit. She’s your little girl. Your baby! At one time, she clung to you like a teenybopper clings to her boy band bling. Now, she’s becoming independent. And soon, she’ll be going off to kindergarten.

Maybe she’s your only child, or maybe you’ve gone through this before. But either way, sending your child to her first day of school is a bittersweet day. Plenty of articles abound focusing on how you can prepare her for her first foray into the “big world,” but what about you? How do you cope with your own mixed emotions?

First of all, just own them. You’re happy for her. You’re sad for you. You’re worried about her. You’re worried about you. You’ve already started to think about the day she’ll go off to college and leave you behind. You’re sure she’ll wind up eight states away and in a place that gets terrible cell phone reception so that you’ll probably never hear from her again except when she gets a call through to ask for money for something she’s just got to have, or when she comes home acting bored and distracted for Thanksgiving dinner.

Whew. That’s a lot of worries! Hey, she’s not even in Miss Smith’s class learning how to write capital and lowercase letters yet! The good news is that worries are in your mind. They’re not real. Once you’ve let them run rampant for a bit, you can put them away.

Better yet, you can replace them with positive thoughts. Imagine helping her with her work, comforting her if she feels confused or scared. She’s still your baby, your little girl. That will never change. She will always need you—or at least want you—in her life. Don’t forget that.

Secondly, throw yourself into her life right now…but don’t hover or get too intrusive. Allow her to continue that trend toward independence. But realize that she definitely still needs you. Help her with fun stuff like picking out her outfit for the first day of school, finding just the right notebooks and folders, determining which color Hello Kitty pencil will cause her to be the envy of her new friends. Reassure her if she’s worried.

Another way to counteract your conflicted feelings is to do something nice for yourself. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, then you may have, at times, felt like you couldn’t go out and experience, say, paddle-boarding down a stretch of the Yadkin River. Now’s your chance. Find some like-minded girlfriends, and hit the river. If you work outside the home, take a much-deserved day off, grab your sisters, and get paddling!

By the way, if you do work outside the home, then you may be feeling extra guilty, imagining times when you ‘coulda, shoulda, or woulda’. Look, those thoughts are just that: thoughts. You have the ability to make them powerful or powerless. You work hard while balancing your time as mom, and that’s what makes you the Queen of Awesomeness. Send her off to school, and go paddle-boarding!

Finally, remember that your daughter’s growing independence does NOT mean she loves you any less. It means you’re doing your job as a parent. You’ve instilled in her the confidence she needs to step securely through the halls of elementary school and on to future halls of academia. That’s a testament to you and your ability as a parent.

Parenting is the only job in which the goal is to make yourself, basically, obsolete. The only way you can achieve this goal is to give your power to your child. Fortunately, by doing so, your own power just grows exponentially.