Year after year I forget. I excitedly begin an Orientation Meeting with new parents at our school and realize, once again, that I have forgotten the fear. Their faces remind me. It’s scary to leave your child at school for the first time. You are biologically programmed to worry about them. And while you know that independence is why you chose a Montessori school in the first place, the actual thought that they might not need you is a little bit unsettling and maybe even, dare I say, sad.
Here’s the truth. They will not be okay. They will be way more than okay. They will be busy, curious, industrious, and fulfilled. The environment and all that is in it is planned to meet their needs academically, socially, and developmentally. They will be heard, respected, and valued. They will try new things and learn from errors. They will practice speaking up for themselves and growing their strengths. They will be way more than okay. And at the end of the day they will bounce right back into your arms.
Here are some things that you can do to facilitate an easier transition:
- Project confidence about the change. Let’s face it, they’ve never done this before, so they are going to look to you get a sense of how they should feel. Be positive and casual. This is not the first time your child will try something new, and it is the beginning of a long practice for you.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get ready. Rushing adds to everyone’s stress. Make breakfast an easy affair and have those outfits ready.
- Have a “parting plan” and stick to it. Sticking to the plan is ultimately reassuring to your child. So, if you decide you will walk up, give a hug and a high five and then go, do exactly that. More and longer hugs can add to anxiety for you both, and cause your child to doubt if anything you promised them about the day will go to plan.
- Make a plan for yourself with accountability. Don’t linger in the car with your thoughts or wander the aisles at Target. Meet a friend at the trail, gym or coffee shop.
- Pick up on time and clear your afterschool schedule. The first few weeks are exhausting for a new preschool or kindergartener. Your child’s experience is similar to you starting a new job. Even if it’s awesome and the people are great, you still come home mentally and physically exhausted. Make space for cuddles, quiet times, and early to bed.
- Treat yourself to something– a new book, journal, or favorite box of tea. You are doing something hard. Teaching our children that we do hard things is the greatest gift we can give them in life. Parenting is a long game, and you are playing to win.
We never really “cut the cord” in my mind. As our children grow that cord stretches and eventually is so long that we may not feel the tug everyday and in every moment, but the connection remains. The good news is that long after the elastic in our metaphorical cord is shot, we can each pick up the slack in the line and walk back toward each other. I talk a good game, but it’s still hard to leave my now teenage children somewhere new. This is the first summer they have ever gone to a sleep-away camp (at 15 & 17!). There was a part of me that worried in the beginning, but my worries were unfounded. Half way through the week my 17 year old called home to say, “We should have done this earlier!” And of course, she was right.