I said another goodbye today and it really doesn’t get any easier.
When I dropped him at preschool 16 years ago, he gave me a quick hug then ran into the classroom. I was shocked at how easy it was for him and so hard for me. As I walked through the scorching parking lot with my three month old baby wrapped tightly to my chest I didn’t just cry, I sobbed. I called my mom and her first reaction to my somewhat muffled statement describing what had just transpired was “are you laughing or crying”.
It was a little of both.
I was so happy that it was easy for him – that meant I had prepared him well for the day. And yet I was sad to be separated from him, and if I am going to be completely honest a little sad that it was so easy for him to be separated from me.
I have now sent that same child off to college twice. And it feels much the same as it did when he was in preschool. He is excited and happy, and I am an emotional mess. As hard as it is, there are a few things that help when dropping off your child, of any age, when they leave for school.
3 simple tips
- Have a plan. Walk through the day (or weekend) together beforehand. Let them know what to expect and when you plan to leave.
- Say a quick goodbye, but let them know you will stick around just a little out of sight. Maybe stay an extra night near the college, or sip your coffee outside the classroom while you take a few deep breaths. Maybe this is for your reassurance, maybe it is to reassure them that you are still nearby. When we moved our son in his first year he sent us a little text “can we have lunch?”. I am so glad we were near campus and able to have one more little meal together before we flew home.
- Encourage them to be the friendly one. Remind them that some kids in the class may be really sad or uncomfortable, and being friendly will help everyone adjust. Give them some opening questions to ask a new friend. Things like “what school did you go to before this? What is your favorite thing to do? What is your favorite show/food/sport/subject? What do you think of the class/school/teacher so far?” This helps give your child an altruistic purpose which will help him focus less on feeling uncomfortable him or herself.
“Don’t be sad. I go but I always come back”.
In the words of my 4 year old niece on her first day of PreK: “Don’t be sad. I go but I always come back”. And that is the truth of it. Our job is to teach them to go, and love in such a way that they always want to come back.