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Helping your child say farewell to preschool, hello to kindergarten

May 20, 2015

In a few short months, I will be the parent of a kindergartener. That boggles my mind a little bit. Gone is the chunky toddler who yells, “Nack! Nack!” when she wants an afternoon snack. No more diapers to change or pacifiers or naptime stories. She has officially moved on from baby to toddler and now little girl. As we make this change from preschool to kindergarten, it feels important to me to transition well- for her sake and mine- and to embark on this next challenge with enthusiasm.

Here are a few of the ways we are working to make this transition a success.

Grieve privately, rejoice publicly

Like many parents, I am feeling some pangs of sadness as I think about how much my daughter has grown. I look at pictures of her from several years back and can’t quite believe that the tiny baby has become this little girl.

I am usually very open to sharing my emotions with my kids, but when nostalgia about their growing older overwhelms me I try to choose the context in which I share those feelings very carefully. I talk about it with my husband or with my friends, but not in front of my daughter. I don’t want to her to feel guilty about growing up or that she has a responsibility to make life okay for me. I don’t want my sadness to confuse her and make her fearful that something bad is happening.

The truth is, something wonderful is happening! I want to show her my excitement and my pride at what a beautiful girl she is becoming. I want to share in the joy of looking forward to all of the fun, the opportunities and the new experiences to come. This journey of figuring out who she will become and where life will take her is a thrill. We get to embark on this adventure together, and I am profoundly grateful.

Embrace the decisions that have been made

I’ve struggled a little under the weight of choosing where my daughter should go to kindergarten. It feels like a big responsibility, and I often wonder whether we’ve made the right choice. We took a tour recently of her soon-to-be school, and as I looked around it felt like such a big place for a tiny girl. She looked so fragile.

I started wondering if perhaps I’d made a mistake. But I realized after a while that these were feelings, not facts. These were feelings that I had because of my own fears and insecurities, not because of anything having to do with the school or my child. I decided that I would embrace the decision that we’ve made and not second-guess or agonize over the potential problems. I will be brave and embrace the unknown (as I’ve encouraged my daughter to do hundreds of times in her short life). I will choose to do so because I believe that even if you never say the words, kids know when you are afraid. And then they are afraid even when they don’t know why.

That isn’t the legacy I want my daughter to carry so I am choosing to welcome this new world and give it my all. If real problems do come up, we’ll handle them and we’ll know if the situation isn’t working out.

Say a good goodbye

I’ve also realized that for my girl, saying a good goodbye is important. She loves deeply, and she will miss the friends that she has seen every day for the past year. These friends will scatter to other schools, and their little lives will carry them off in different directions. It’s easy to think that saying goodbye in preschool isn’t a big deal. After all, what grown-up do you know that even remembers their friends from preschool? Here’s the thing. They may not remember these friends forever, but they remember them now.

It’s helpful to acknowledge when a good thing is coming to an end so you can celebrate the wonderful thing you have while you still have it. In the next couple of weeks, my girl and I are going to talk about how she’d like to say goodbye to her friends and her teachers. Draw them a picture? Give a small gift? Have a special playdate? I don’t know what she’ll choose, but whatever it is will earn a prominent spot on my to-do list. We’ll talk about how she feels about saying goodbye and that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes. We’ll say thank you to those that have made her year wonderful, and we’ll reminisce about the good times we’ve had.

These preschool years are coming to an end, and that is certainly bittersweet. However, there are still many more good years to come, and we are going to welcome them with open arms.