By Yolanda Darville
Our family made an important decision last week. After two years of feeling that my daughter needed a smaller classroom setting where she could get more attention in class, I finally decided to move her to a new school. I’d done quite a bit of research and knew that it was the right decision. After the first visit to the new school, my daughter was excited and couldn’t wait to enroll. There was just one problem. She had to say goodbye to her old school.
Let me give you some background. My fourth grader had been at the same school since she was three years old. For nearly six years, she’d seen the faces of the same children and teachers almost every day. Her old school was all that she knew. So although she was excited about moving to a new environment and starting a new adventure, she was a little scared. I realized that this was a big deal for her. As I thought about it, I realized that she had never had to say goodbye to anything in her life.
It dawned on me that helping my daughter make a smooth transition from one school to the other would set a precedent in her life. As she continues to live and grow, she’ll deal with many changes. She’ll have pets that die. She’ll have friends come and go. There will be jobs that she will leave. There will definitely be romantic relationships that she’ll have to let go. I realized that what seems simple to adults can be complex and confusing to children. Children don’t innately know how to close one door and open another in a healthy way – they have to be shown. So I decided to walk my daughter through her first life transition the best way that I could.
First, I asked her about how she was feeling. She told me that she was excited about the new school. But she also admitted that she was afraid. She was afraid of not knowing what to expect. She wondered what her new teacher would be like. She was scared that she wouldn’t make any new friends. I let her talk about all of her feelings without belittling them as childhood fears.
I was relieved when her new school suggested that she do a trial run for a day before transferring. Was I ever thankful for that suggestion! It was the perfect opportunity for her to get all of her questions answered and her fears alleviated. After the trial school day, she was much more confident and felt ready to say goodbye to her old school.
The last day at her old school was bittersweet. At the end of the day, I walked with her as she hugged good friends goodbye and made promises to still keep in touch. Then we began the long process of visiting each teacher who she’d had over the years. After seeing just a few teachers, she turned to me and said “Can we just go now, mom? All these goodbyes are making me sad.” I told her that I was following her lead, and we quickly left campus.
On the way home from the last day of school, we shook off the sadness and spent our drive home talking about how great her new school would be. I smiled because I knew that my daughter had learned an important lesson. Now she knows from her own experience that each hard goodbye is followed by a bright promising hello.
My daughter changed schools, but many other changes go on in our children’s lives? How do you help them deal?