I am a mom of one child who will be beginning Kindergarten this year. I am DREADING his being away from me for so many hours each day. I am doing the best I can to not let him see my fears regarding this separation but I am concerned he will sense it. We are so close and even though he has play dates and other times he is away from me (he attended preschool), it seems like I am grieving the loss of the special times we had while he was young and the “world was ours” to discover together! Is this a normal response? Any suggestions on how to handle it better than I feel like I am?
Jennifer, in (state not provided)
There is a good reason that kindergarten teachers keep lots of tissues on hand for the first day of school! And it’s not for the kids…
So the answer to your first question is, yes, this is a normal response.
The answer to your second question is also yes! There are a few ways you can think about this so that you have an easier time and your child doesn’t feel guilty for abandoning you.
You’d never make him feel guilty on purpose, of course. The problem with a child separating from a parent who is really struggling with that separation is that the child does notice the parent’s difficulty. This leaves the child either more anxious about separating, or guilty about looking forward to the new adventure.
Here are three suggestions for reframing your thinking about this big transition:
- Figure out what new adventures are now possible! You’re absolutely right that your dynamic will change with your son at school for 6 hours a day. However, there are so many things you can do with your son now that you couldn’t do when he was younger. Make a list of activities, places to visit, hobbies you can explore together, trips you can take. Remember that he will become a fluent reader, that he will develop new interests and abilities, be better able to carry on deep conversations all because he is growing and getting more educated!
- Pick a project for yourself. You will have some extra time – though not as much as it seems, as many moms of older kids can tell you. Decide on some things that you have wanted to do and schedule them. Or pick a group to volunteer some of your time. This will help you feel like you are using your time well and give you more to discuss with your son. Additionally, he will know you are not just sitting home counting the hours until he is with you again. You might consider working with preschoolers since you really enjoy that age.
- Find a support group. There are great reasons that moms of kindergarteners form strong friendships. Find others who are going through the same transition you and your son are facing and lean on each other.
Give yourself and your son reasons to look forward to this next chapter!