When Mom Has Kindergarten Anxiety

The morning Dalia started her first full day of kindergarten, she was excited. I was excited. We said a quick goodbye at the door and off she went into her classroom.

 

 

Granted, she was already familiar with her school and surroundings from preschool. I knew that for many moms, kindergarten drop-off wasn't nearly as easy. There were tears…lots of them…and not shed by the kids, but by the moms.

 

Here are a few posts I read about the transition to kindergarten on Facebook that week:

 

  • “I was holding back my tears until he got on the bus and then I lost it. I'm a complete mess.”
  • “I haven't been able to sleep at night. I'm so worried about everything that could go wrong.”
  • “I think he's ready for school, but I'm not. I don't want to lose my baby.”
  • “I'm trying not to let on that I'm anxious, but I keep getting choked up every time I think about how fast she's growing up. Next thing I know she'll be going off to college!”

 

Can you relate?

 

It's normal to feel some sadness and anxiety. After all, your child is growing up fast. This may be the first time you've been separated from him for more than a couple of hours in a day. He'll be influenced by new adults and other kids that you've never screened met, and you won't have control over every aspect of his day.

 

Your fear of the unknown will make you wonder: Is he eating? Is he making friends? Will he cry? Is he being polite? Will the teacher know how smart he is? Will the teacher be able to handle when he throws a tantrum? Harder still, you won't be there to witness in real-time all the new experiences he's having and the things he's learning.

 

Take a deep breath, mama. It's all going to be ok.

 

Tweet it out – It's not the circumstances, but our thoughts about the circumstances, that create our experience. @lessdramamama

 

Part of normal child development is being able to separate from primary caregivers and gain independence. It's a good thing! Let's look at those Facebook comments again and calm the anxiety by changing some of those thoughts about the start of kindergarten.

 

First, it’s normal to miss someone you’re usually with 24/7. You may suddenly feel you have too much time on your hands, or worry that as other people take on important roles in your child's life, you won't be as needed anymore.

 

As hard as it is, letting go is part of your growth process as a parent. Clinging to a child so he needs you more is not a healthy part of the program. Hal Runkel, author of Scream Free Parenting always says, “Kids need parents who don’t need them.” Rather than catastrophize that you’re a complete mess, acknowledge that you feel sad, lonely or empty. Then make time for self-care and create some structure for yourself throughout the day.

 

Second, if you're going to fantasize, start thinking about everything that can go right. Imagine your child getting off the bus and running into your arms. Imagine her telling you that she had an amazing day learning new things and making new friends. Keep in mind that even if she has some trouble adjusting, she's learning how to handle new situations and to trust that other adults can and will take care of her.

 

Third, the school year is here, so consider yourself ready. In some ways, you are losing your “baby” as he evolves into a school-aged kid. So while there may be a little bit of loss involved — of control, some aspects of innocence, or the routine you had, for example — there's so much more that is gained. Focus on all that you and your child are gaining from this new chapter in your lives: fresh experiences, new friends, education, greater awareness of the world, social interaction, more independence…

 

Finally, college is far-off, and kindergarten is one of many milestones along your child's path. Be present to enjoy and celebrate every step of the way.

 

The bottom line: When your kids pick up on your calm energy and enthusiastic attitude, it'll help them feel safer and more relaxed about their transition to school.

 

In the comments below, let me know how the kindergarten transition was for you. What are you most looking forward to this school year?

 

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Showing 19 comments
  • L.
    Reply

    I’m so glad I googled this topic. Thank you for this article. I seriously thought I was the only one. All my friends have older kids, or they have forgotten what this feels like? (My babies are not babies anymore!) My anxiety has been building all summer. Daddy insisted on a charter kindergarten, and only one of my twins was accepted. The other is #2 (out of more than 100 applicants) on the wait list. So, she will be going to a different school. Daddy says it’s only temporary, “for a couple weeks or a couple months (the forever optimist). I keep praying for this to be true! The school supply lists were exhausting. Duplicates became triplicates because of the possibility of eventually going to the same school. I am having flashbacks of being dropped off at Kindergarten and getting lost. Crying in the hallway. Not having many friends. I’ll have to drop one child off early in order to get the other child to the next town. Thankfully, the first child is the more independent of the two, but I still fear for her safety. I know we just have to go through it, and it will be fine. But school doesn’t start for 10 more days. I’m trying to make the best out of the last of their summer.

    • Pam Howard
      Reply

      Ok, take a deeeep breath.
      If you were to go through your post and re-write it so that it was only facts, the only thing happening is that your twins are starting Kindergarten in 10 days at two different schools. Everything else is the story you’re telling yourself about the circumstance…and it’s a very dramatic story that isn’t serving you or your kids. Figure out how you want to feel. You have total control over that by how you decide to think. You could decide to think that they are supposed to be in different schools. Because they will be, at least for now. You could decide this is the best decision Daddy ever made, and start creating evidence for that. You could decide that everything will work out perfectly for you and the kids. However you decide to think about the situation will create your experience of it.
      You’ve got this, L.

  • Carina Gazcon
    Reply

    My Little girl starts kindergarten this August, I HAVE 3 DAYS with anxiety!! I can’t sleep, I can’t help but stress out and think about all the negatives. Especially with all the news about shootings, bullies, and teachers that molest or hit the kids. I’m scared too death! I’m worried! I really thought of home schooling but I don’t want to take away the chance to love school. I don’t want to think about the day she starts, not having her here with me, being away from her for a whole day; I’m used to her! I try to be positive I try to think about the beautiful things the memories she’s gonna create all the things she will learn. But I can’t help but feel sad! What else can I do??

    • Pam Howard
      Reply

      Hi Carina, One of the most challenging aspects of parenting for a lot of people is “letting go.” It’s ok to feel sad about your daughter’s transition to Kindergarten. The only reason you’re feeling sad and worried is because of all of your thoughts about her being away from you. What if you could allow yourself to feel sad and excited for the beautiful memories she’ll create at the same time? What if you knew that you would create beautiful memories for yourself, too? Every stage of parenthood has its growing pains, and it’s supposed to be hard. You got this! If you’d like to schedule a mini-session with me, click here.

    • Lorena Lira
      Reply

      Hi Carina Gascon! Everything you feel I feel! You could not have said it any better! Has your child started school? If so how is it going? My daughter will be starting Kindergarten in September 2019 and I am stressing! Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!!

  • Sharon
    Reply

    Letting go is my motto. That is basically the main idea of having your kids grow up. It begins when they first go off to nursery school or kindergarten, and continues all along the way. Of course, when they were small, I tried hard not to cry or “miss” them during the day, but I have found, like Beth, that it DOES get easier with time… and as a mom let me say that I am proud of all 4 of my kids who have grown up and left home. They are so independent and mature. Now, we moms can make more time for ourselves, too, which is another important issue 😊.

    • Pam Howard
      Reply

      Yes, Sharon! I often talk about how we’re raising adults, not kids. Our job is to help them become independent. I admire you for doing such an amazing job with FOUR! I hope you’re enjoying all your alone time now…and thank you for using some of that time to read and comment on the blog 🙂

  • Beth Boyer
    Reply

    Wow, again. I commented on this post two years ago., and seeing again, and reading my comment and your response is amazing. Today I’m in Atlanta, bringing my youngest child to college! So I’m doing this school separation thing for my baby. I’ve done this before, and I trust my son to make good choices, but I also trust him to make mistakes that he’ll grow from. I spent the day in orientation sessions where college deans essentially told us to stop helicoptering over our kids. I know their jobs would be easier if all the parents had read your posts when their kids were entering kindergarten. Now my husband and I will be empty nesters, and to be honest, we can’t wait. It’s been 22 years since we’ve been just us, and we are thrilled to move on to this next phase of our lives together. I’m less sad this time at the separation, I know they come home, but it’s so freeing to have them be independent. Whether it’s having time to get three whole errands done without your children because they’re in kindergarten, or being able to travel because they’re all in college, letting go of our kids let’s us be alone with ourselves. Will I spend some of that time curled up on my each of kids’ beds in their empty rooms when I get home? Yes! But then I’ll dance around the house, maybe naked, and drink a glass of wine. We did it! We got them to this point, shehechianu!

    • Pam Howard
      Reply

      Congratulations on becoming an empty nester, Beth! I’m so grateful to you for sharing your experiences about motherhood with us here on the blog and I can’t wait to hear about this next stage of your life! xoxoxo

    • Reyna
      Reply

      Such great post!! Glad I found this and that I’m not alone feeling this way. I’ve been a mess crying, feeling sadness with my daughter starting preschool 2 days a week. I have a 9 month baby and I could use that time to bond with her. But I’ve been caught up in my emotions. Feeling afraid, worried about my toddlers new environment. Being separated from her trusting others are taking care of her well. She did great first day it’s me having the problem just overwhelmed with sadness. I hope to find peace and be more than okay with letting go. Trusting other humans to guide and teach her. Seeing the circumstance in a new set of eyes and knowing this is an opportunity for growth. Just the way you commented above.

  • Lydia
    Reply

    Thank you so much for this article. This has been most helpful.

    • Pam Howard
      Reply

      Hi Lydia,
      I’m so glad you found it helpful. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  • HD23
    Reply

    First day of K for my oldest daughter and by 2 pm I was ready to go to school and get her. I was 20 min early for the bus stop and once I got her off the bus I was sobbing uncontrollably. She thought it was hilarious. I have so much anxiety, esp since the class room was so drab, had no windows and no AC. UGH

    • Pam Howard
      Reply

      Yay! You made it through the first day, Mama! Did your daughter enjoy school? Remember that she needs you to be confident about this new experience because she takes her lead from you. Read this post I wrote about parental anxiety and don’t forget to BREATHE. You can handle it!!! http://www.lessdramamoremama.com/dont-worry

  • Clare Greig
    Reply

    Thanks for this Pam. My little man starts school next year so it will be interesting to see how I go that first week. Thanks so much for your tips and ideas. Rhiannon we will have to see how we go hey? 🙂

  • Rhiannon
    Reply

    I love this article. Such a positive way to view this new stage in a family’s life. Having been a teacher for almost a decade, I’ve been on the other side of the fence… however come next year, with my son starting school, I’ll be in this position. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful insights and tips for this special and often emotional time. xo

  • Kristy
    Reply

    Pam, I’m yet to experience formal Kindergarten but I know that when my started pre-school earlier this year, that this mama certainly experienced her share of ‘mum-anxiety’. Thanks for normalising this and for sharing your experience so beautifully. It’s assuring to know that we all experience it. Even though I was previously a teacher, I thought I’d be fine. Little did I know…

  • Beth'
    Reply

    Wow. I’m reading this sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to bring me home after driving 1,300 miles with my daughter so she could have her car with her for the second year of college. When I get home I’ll have one day to finish packing my son for his first year of college. And let me tell you, I have the exact same fears I did when he was in kindergarten: Is he eating? Is he making friends? Is he being polite? Will the teacher know how smart he is? The fears for my very social daughter are more along the lines of: will she make good choices? Will she limit her partying? Will she choose the right friends? Will she choose the right boyfriends?

    It doesn’t end, but all those successful separations from kingergarten on make this one a tiny bit easier. We’ve had lots of practice separating at this point. I’m still worried, I just keep it to myself, or share it with my husband, and we just hope that the 18 years at home have given them the practice they need to make it in this transitional time of college. But when I get home, I’ll still curl into a ball and cry.

    • Pam Howard
      Reply

      Beth,

      Your comment gave me chills. The connection you’ve made with each of your kids is what enables them to successfully separate from you. They feel confident asserting their independence because they trust you to be there when they need you. You’re an awesome mama. xoxo

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