Make time to be alone—and have an ugly cry
Halfpoint/Shutterstock No matter how many books—or articles just like this one—you read, you will likely still feel a twang in your heart as you walk hand-in-hand with your kindergartner into the classroom, only to head back to your car solo. Feel like having a snotty-nosed, red-eyed tantrum in the parking lot? Stephanie O’Leary, Ph.D, clinical psychologist, gives you full permission to ugly cry it out. (Well, perhaps not for the elementary school guard to see, but in a space that feel comfortable.) “Give yourself some alone time to be emotional. It’s natural and expected to be experiencing a wave of emotions as your little one prepares to pack up and head to school for the first time, and it’s important to honor your feelings,” she explains. Feel shame about being emotional? Don’t. Here are some surprising benefits of crying.
Turn your anxiety into excitement
Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock So you’re worried about how your child will fit in. If they’ll make friends. If they’ll be bullied. There are all sorts of thoughts racing through your mind, and guess what? They’re 100 percent normal, explains Adam Pletter, Psy.D, child psychologist. He suggests leaning into the anxieties, instead of fighting them, but with a helpful twist: turn the worries into excitement. “There is growing research that feeling excitement activates the part of the brain that helps the individual problem solve, which helps the parent and child cope. Accepting the nervousness as normal and then shifting to feeling excited about aspects of the changing role as parent will help everyone involved cope more effectively and that is the goal: coping with the change and feeling in control as much as possible,” he explains. If nothing else helps, these phrases will instantly calm your nerves.
Be your child’s rock—and remember he (will always) need you
Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock So while expressing your emotions is a healthy habit, Dr. O’Leary reminds parents how essential it is to remain your child’s rock throughout the transition to kindergarten. Because your child depends on you to be his steady, guiding force of love and encouragement, openly weeping in front of him may ignite fears surrounding school. “A quick, sentimental, smiling tear may slip out on the first day, but remember it’s important to send your child the message of, ‘You’ve got this!’ Focusing on supporting your child in this way allows you to highlight your son or daughter’s strengths, which will leave you feeling a bit more optimistic and less stressed,” she says. One sweet, memorable and helpful way to shift the conversation positively is to talk to your child about going to school. Dr. O’Leary suggests having an open conversation about what they hope their year of school will be like and guiding them through notes or drawings. “You may be pleasantly surprised by your child’s goals and aspirations! Use this as a source of inspiration for you and your child,” she adds. Looking for easy ways to give your kiddo a pep talk? Get started with these small ways to encourage your kids every day.