In the area we live in, school is back in session. It is amazing to me the speed at which summer zips by. I admit, the first week or two of summer are a ‘shock and awe’ kind of adjustment. I go from quiet-filled days to immediate chaos. I have to mentally accept that ‘alone time’ no longer exists for me. It takes a while but noise becomes my new normal pretty quickly. Then, every year at the beginning of school, I have to send the boys off again and return to the quiet. This is the one time of year I hate the quiet. I do alright dropping them off at school, but then once I get home the silence is eerily unsettling.
Parenting is a job that if we are successful at it, our children independently conquer the world and we are no longer necessary. I am feeling this more and more acutely with each passing school year. As my boys grow and gain confidence, I am needed less and less.
Where does successful independence for our kids come from? I believe it starts with us as parents. There are ways to model and encourage independence, but there is often a more subtle way in which we can help give our kids their freedom. It all comes down to how we manage our own emotions when separating from our children.
This is where a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ mentality can be extremely helpful. Even if you feel like a hot mess inside, when you take your kids to school on that first day, do so with a positive intent. To help you stay present in the moment, focus on all the tasks at hand. The wonderful thing about starting school is there are all sorts of new things to keep us parents distracted. There are new teachers, new classrooms, remembering supplies and getting our kids successfully out the door just to name a few of them. When it comes to drop-off, short and sweet wins every time. There is no need to be overly detailed or to try and micromanage their day with a mini-lecture (guilty as charged!). Instead, wish them luck and send them off. Even if your child is expressing a lot of fear or anxiety, it will be more helpful to them if you can say goodbye as quickly as possible. If tears enter the equation, do your best to stay positive and if necessary, help them find their class and ask their teacher to engage them. From there, try your best to make a hasty exit as lingering often makes the separation harder on everyone. Teachers have seen it all before and are well aware of first day jitters. Let them take the lead so you can leave peacefully.
And then, when you get back to the quiet of your day, you can let down your guard and let your emotions out. With any luck, you will find comfort in the reemergence of your own independence.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent