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Our Blog: February 27, 2012

Letting Go As They Grow

Our third-born started Kindergarten this year. I figured I’d be a pro by now, after surviving the big day twice before. Kid #3 should be easy. Right?

Wrong. On the first day of school, our sweet, soulful 5-year-old hung up his backpack, found his desk and solemnly said good-bye to us as if he were bravely facing a slew of dragons and monsters all by himself. Terrified but determined, he was on a mission – a big-kid mission. We watched with crushing pride as he steeled himself to his new, big-boy task.

How could he be this grown-up? The photos of me holding him in the delivery room still evoke memories of his fresh newborn baby scent, and my quick discovery that this little guy was sweet, loving, and above all – determined. And now – big-boy school already.

As you ponder Kindergarten for your child this fall, it’s natural to feel conflicted. Children regress at times of transition, but guess what? We regress too. Doubts and fears about whether our child will be ready for Kindergarten may be partly our own fears about letting go. As much as we want them to grow, our protectiveness and love for them make us want to grab them back into our arms, denying the ever-growing distance between us. But we must loosen our grip. Driven to try new skills daily, children have no choice but to march forward. Crawling turns to walking – then running – and then school starts. By third grade, our kiddos are way more interested in their friends than they are in us. Our importance to them shrinks by the day. And it’s supposed to happen that way.

Nurturing your young child is a vital first phase in his development. But letting go becomes part of the second phase. And although he isn’t ready for the car keys yet, he is ready to take those first steps into his Kindergarten classroom. I’m here to tell you it can be done.

Here are my tips for coping:

  • Reflection time. Look at baby pictures and videos together. It helps show how much growing your baby’s done – and strengthens your child’s memories of her early childhood.
  • Support time. Get involved at your child’s school. Volunteer to be a room parent, sign up to help with projects and otherwise get to know the school community. But don’t hover – that makes everyone crazy. Fill the gaps where you’re needed, even if it’s not in your child’s classroom.
  • Me time. You put yourself on the back burner when your child was teeny. Now it’s important – and healthy – to delve into your own interests and activities again. Try a new sport, catch up with old friends, flex your career muscles or volunteer for a good cause.
  • Yay time! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. As much as it hurts to let go, know that your kiddo is becoming a wonderfully independent big kid. Congrats, Mom and Dad!
About the Author

Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Dr. Wittenberg is a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers — and parents. She offers no-hype, practical parenting advice on her blog BabyShrink — rooted in science, and road tested in her own home as the mother of four young children. She has helped thousands of parents over the years and knows that the most common problems with young children — sleep, feeding, potty training and behavior — can be the most difficult ones to solve.