The day I put my twins on a school bus for their first day of Kindergarten was wrenching. They couldn’t even see out the window they were so small. I got into my car, turned on the radio and heard the Fleetwood Mac song Landslide and burst into ugly sobs while driving.
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I've been afraid of changin'
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older, too
Yes, I have “built my life around you” but why was I sobbing in the car when only days before I was pulling my hair out counting the hours until their first day? Because it’s normal! Thankfully, that was the only time I cried, and my boys had a great first day. But those firsts of leaving your child can be challenging for every parent.
Emily Popek, 40, of Oneonta, NY went through the same thing when she dropped off her daughter at daycare for the first time. She admitted her nerves were frayed, saying, “There were so many rules and regulations to remember (label the bottles, put her change of clothes in her cubby, etc.) and I was super scared that I would mess something up. She was only 5 months old, so I also worried that she would cry and be upset the whole time I was at work. I remember, I was actually shaking when I walked up to the building!”
Turns out the staff was wonderful and Popek knew her baby was in good hands, but it was a new and unfamiliar chapter in their lives. Something all parents will face with their kids.
Popek shares that it was actually much harder for her husband. “He still misses our daughter terribly when he's at work and she's 6 years old now. I tend to compartmentalize things, so when I'm at work, I don't think about home at all, or vice versa, which has made the emotional side of things a bit easier for me I think.”
6 Tips to Help Cope
Leaving your child at daycare or at school for the first time and feeling apprehensive and emotional is completely normal. It’s the first of many “letting go” moments as children grow.
- Know that what you’re feeling is temporary. The first day or week may be challenging, but before you know it you’ll get into a routine and it will feel normal. I know it's hard to fathom now, but trust me. You'll get there.
More: Separation Anxiety
- Trust your child’s daycare staff or school teachers. Popek shares, “I always tell myself that my daughter's care providers and teachers have really seen it all, and that they have been chosen for their role because of their ability to handle these situations.” She says to take comfort knowing that they are trained in the best ways to care for and educate children.
- There’s no need to prep your baby for daycare. Popek recommends not putting added pressure on yourself to prepare your infant for daycare. She shares, “a) you can't make a baby do anything, really; and b) again, trust your caregiver. They will pick up wherever you leave off, no matter where that is. They will meet your child where they are.”
Don't feel like you need to regulate her nap schedule, for instance. Your daycare will work with her needs, no matter how many naps she takes.
- DO prep for Kindergarten or preschool. The first day of school is a different story, especially if your child didn't go to daycare. Give them time to get used to the idea of a new routine and a new environment.
- Do as many things ahead of time. Choose outfits, prep food and lunches, pack anything your child needs the night before. When you’re transitioning to a new phase like daycare or Kindergarten you’ll avoid adding stress to an already emotional situation.
- Be good to yourself. This is new for your child, but it's also new for you. Take care of yourself. Whether it's taking yourself out for lunch or just taking a few minutes in the car to breathe, whatever you need to soothe your nerves as you transition to this new phase of parenting. And having a good cry may just be the best thing!
Today, Popek’s daughter is finishing up her first year of Kindergarten. Popek shares, “It's bittersweet, to be sure, but seeing her grow up and develop new confidence and skills has been absolutely wonderful.”
Looking for ways to cut down on morning stress? We have 9 Morning Routine Hacks to Get Your Kids to the Bus on Time