Summer is wrapping up and families across the U.S. are preparing to send their children to school, some for the very first time. This can be a very exciting time: new friends, teachers, and learning experiences await. It can also be scary and sad, both for the kids and the parents. Even for the most securely attached pre-school/TK and Kindergarten children, going to school means being away from their typical caretakers for often longer than ever before – and in a new environment with adults they don’t know and with whom they will have a very different type of relationship. Even in daycares hugs and affection tend to abound, but by the time kids enter school the expectation is that teachers will be more distant an less physical with kids, which can be a big adjustment, particularly or those littles still learning to emotionally self-regulate.
For parents, the start of the school year can bring relief after juggling kids being home with other responsibilities over the summer. Suddenly, regular showers might seem possible again! But that sense of relief often comes with sadness as parents grapple with the realization that their child is now another year old, in the school sense, and next summer will i variably be very different than the one that just concluded. Never again will they be THAT age or need you for THOSE things. And while the calm and quiet at home may have seemed like a fantasy over the summer, the reality can be a deafening silence and the hard-earned personal space can feel profoundly lonely at time.
The good news is that after a couple of weeks, both children and parents usually adjust to their new roles, filling schedules with new opportunities. Parents find joy in the art projects sent home, and photos from school if they are fortunate enough to get them. Kids bond with peers and teachers and look forward to school (or aspects of it at least). And parents shower (because, if you have small kids, we know this s the true measure of self-care!).
If you or your child are still struggling to adapt after a few weeks, it might be worth examining the cause. If your child is having difficulty at school, talk to their teachers and school counselor – perhaps they need help making friends, or accommodations in class to make the material more accessible to them. If you’re having difficulty coping with a part-time empty nest, seek out ways to fill that time that also make you feel fulfilled. And never forget, there are trained people in the world who are always there to help if things get difficult.
Happy New School Year!