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Having a Hard Time Sending Your LO Off to Kindergarten? Here’s How to Cope


Having a Hard Time Sending Your LO Off to Kindergarten? Here’s How to Cope

I’m no stranger to sending my kids to school. My eldest has been in preschool for the past two years, enabling me to continue my freelance writing career. However, with him starting kindergarten in the fall, I find myself struggling.

Unlike our preschool schedule, kindergarten is every day, with strict rules and attendance guidelines. It feels so permanent. When I found myself crying while shopping for school supplies, I realized I needed a strategy to deal with this significant life change. Here’s how I’m managing sending my child to kindergarten for the first time, along with advice from a mental health expert if you’re experiencing similar feelings.

Meet the expert
Sarah Baroud
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

How to Cope With Sending Your Child Off to Kindergarten

Leaning Into the Feelings

When I found myself getting emotional over number two pencils, I knew I had strong emotions about my son starting kindergarten. Sarah Baroud, a LICSW based in Massachusetts, explained, “It’s okay and normal to grieve the last chapter of your parenthood journey. Finding someone else in the same position may help give you a place to talk and share what you’re going through.”

So I’ve allowed myself to acknowledge those intense feelings and discuss them with friends or my partner—but in private. The last thing I want is for my son to witness any negative feelings I have about him starting kindergarten.

“Be sure to work through your feelings with your partner, friends, or therapist and try to keep those more difficult emotions from interfering in your child’s process,” Baroud advised. “Being a mom is only one part of your identity, not all of it. It’s a good time to consider other parts of yourself that you may have put aside in recent years.”

Embracing New Hobbies

As a work-from-home mom with limited childcare for the last five years, I’ve had little time for hobbies, focusing mainly on caregiving, writing, household duties, and my marriage. Therefore, I’ve started exploring my interests outside of being a mom or my work. I’ve begun practicing yoga twice a week, which not only allows some me-time but also greatly reduces my stress levels. I’ve also taken up renovating an old dollhouse I acquired for free. It may sound peculiar, and I’m uncertain about its purpose once finished, but having a creative outlet pursued solely for the joy of creating has helped me feel more like myself.

“This is a new chapter for a parent who has been fully dedicated to caring for their child at home,” said Baroud. “Give yourself time to adjust emotionally to the new routine. If there is something you’ve been looking forward to like a house project, a walking group, or reading that dusty book, this could be a time to dive in.”

Refocusing on Career Goals

The constant demands of being a full-time mom have often limited my focus on my career. Despite managing to sustain my writing career through pregnancies, newborn phases, and early childhood, I haven’t always dedicated the time and effort I desired to my writing.

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the number of women working full-time drops 18% once they have their first child. However, this changes for me now. This fall, with my oldest in kindergarten five days a week and my youngest starting preschool, the uninterrupted, child-free hours will be solely dedicated to my writing career.

Finding a New Normal

While I’m not enthusiastic about early mornings and leaving behind leisurely summer mornings, returning to a routine will benefit everyone.

I’ve started waking up early and going to bed at a reasonable time. We’ve practiced driving to his school, eating lunch independently from his lunchbox, and even arranged a summer playdate with his kindergarten peers so he could see familiar faces on the first day.

“It’s great to run through the new day’s schedule ahead of time. This gives the family a chance to practice a new morning routine [and] commute,” said Baroud. “Using books and stories, or TV shows to help their child see other kids [and] characters go through the transition is helpful, too.”

Ironically, while I’ve been nervous leading up to this change, my incoming kindergartner couldn’t be more excited. So while I may shed a few tears as I pull away from the car line on that first day, I have a feeling my son won’t be feeling the same way. And I know it’s all part of motherhood, letting go.

Baroud agreed. “It’s really all for the best. For both of you.”

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