When my eldest son was in elementary school, I worked part time and volunteered to be the class parent. I was at school for his class parties and had the first option to attend class trips. I purposely skipped some trips. I told the teacher to give someone else a chance. Actually, I did it less for the sake of other parents and more for the sake of my son. I wanted to give him the chance. He needed the opportunity to see that he was capable. He needed to know that he could manage without me. It was okay to skip the school trip.
Children learn that they can be successfully independent from being apart from us at every age. From the first time they leave their parents at preschool to their departure from our homes after high school, there are a multitude of times they can learn that they can manage without us – if only we don’t let our own fears stand in the way.
On the first day of kindergarten for both of my children, I cried. I wanted to protect them. I wanted to see what they were seeing, watch what they were doing and prevent the other children from hurting their feelings. I worried about how they were faring at their first sleepover at a friend’s house. I wanted to hear every detail of their trips without me. The best part of getting their first cell phones was knowing that they could text me upon arrival anywhere when I wasn’t with them. When my son moved to college, I felt like a piece of me had been torn away. All of that – every bit of the emotion – was about me and not my child. It would only benefit me to be with my child more often. It would not benefit my child in any way.
It’s okay to skip the school trip. It’s important to encourage them to sleep at a friend’s house when invited. It is essential that they be given the space to learn their own capability. Children become confident in their ability to make good decisions by being given the freedom to do so without having you there to approve, disapprove or act as a safety net.
Children will naturally try to pull away from you. They may say, “It’s okay if you don’t go.” They will resist telling you everything and will treasure experiences that are all their own. They will make friends who you don’t know. They will answer your inquiry about what happened during the day with, “Nothing.” Becoming separate from you is a natural process that enables them slowly but surely to leave your home and lead adult lives someday.
When your children get on that bus or in that car or move into the dorm without you, think to yourself, “It is okay to skip this. It is as it should be.”
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