It's back to school time, and August and September can be filled with anxiety for families across the country. I know there are uncertain tears, sometimes more from parents than their kids. It can be excruciating to bring your child to kindergarten or a new school for the first time, especially if they are nervous and dramatic as you are leaving. You feel like you have to be strong and hold it together. You want to be supportive, but not clingy. Some schools even host "BooHoo/Yahoo Breakfasts," a supportive place where parents can go after dropping off their kiddos to either rejoice or lament over grocery store donuts and warm orange juice.
So, to all the moms and dads that dropped off their pride and joy at those classroom doors for the first time, and then went home and ugly cried, here's what your child's kindergarten teacher is probably too exhausted to tell you, but would like you to know:
If on that first day of school your child cried a little, or even if they screamed, clung to you and had to be physically peeled away by the teacher, they were much better after you left, I promise. They always are, and it gets easier as they become more familiar. The unknown is scary for all of us, but it should feel good that you are their safe place. That being said, they need to know from your actions that school is a safe place as well. When you confidently and matter-of-factly drop them off with a kiss and a hug at the door into the capable hands of their teacher, you are communicating that they are taken care of and will be just fine. They might need to borrow your confidence at first, and you may need to fake it a bit until you too are more confident letting go. It’s a good practice for everyone involved. Raising kids is about preparing them and then letting go one step at a time throughout their whole lives, so it’s important.
When children are feeling a little anxious, you would be amazed at how much parents hovering around the classroom can exacerbate the problem. When you do that as a parent, you are communicating to your child that they need you to be safe. They may sense that you don’t quite trust them to be independent, or their teachers to take good care of them. You’re also depriving them of an opportunity to learn how to deal with fear and anxiety in healthy ways. All of us have fears, but we need to learn how to push through and not be paralyzed by them. That’s how we grow in confidence, and for your little one it may be one of their first chances to feel some fear and do it anyway. Isn’t that the kind of adults we want our children to be - the confident kind who aren’t afraid to take risks and see rewards, proud of themselves at the end of the day? From a logistical standpoint, it is also very difficult to get 30 kindergarteners to get into a routine and started with the business of the day with 30 additional adult bodies hovering by the coat rack. Kids thrive on routine and procedures, and I can guarantee they will settle into them quickly and comfortably if they are allowed to do so.