Passages: From Kindergarten to College

“Mommy can you just hold me?” asked one 5-year-old child, very tired after her third day of kindergarten.

Sometimes the transitions to school are unpredictably hard: leaving a child at college who has slept under your roof for 18 years.

She was excited to be going to school—loved it—and was happy to join her older brother on the bus and at school each day. But by the third day, the new routine had begun to drain her. Here in Virginia, kindergarten is a long full day, the same length as for the big kids (with an afternoon rest for little ones).

I remember that when my kids started school, it seemed like they fared much better for the evening if I was able to put off supper preparation for at least a half hour, sit on the couch or at the kitchen table, look at their papers, hear their stories, maybe have snacks, and just have downtime before heading to the next item on my to do list.

September is transition time for many of us—back to school, college, a more regular schedule. Sometimes as parents we welcome the changes—more time for ourselves and projects, a little less mayhem, at least once the children get out of the house. And even most homeschooling parents experience a change in schedule, with more structure to their days.

Sometimes the transitions to school are unpredictably hard: leaving a child at college who has slept under your roof for 18 years (more or less, except for sleepovers and camps). One mother, after taking her daughter to college, posted on Facebook: “Well, that was harder than expected.” Two days later she added, “Got to Skype with the girl… best part about the day was a text saying, ‘I really like it here!’”

As parents we should be happy if children make the college transition well, and hang in there for the stressful call or text that will likely come saying, “Help! Take me home! I’ll never get X – Y – Z done in time!”

Ease of communication and technology can help smooth passages. They can also get in the way by keeping parents so connected that they hover or smother their young adult children. But I don’t think that will be the case with this mother and college age daughter. The point of having children and helping them grow into adults, after all, is just that. Letting them grow—which means letting go. (Swallow small lump here.)

The most poignant piece I read as I researched this column came from actor Rob Lowe (Parks and Recreation), who wrote about leaving his son at a distant college. They had finished moving everything into his dorm, the mother had applied her finishing touches. But son Matthew said, uncharacteristically, “Dad, I think I’ll just stay with you and Mom [in the hotel] tonight.” As father and son discussed his apprehensions about whether he could make it at this Ivy League school, the son said, “None of the other kids look scared at all.”

Lowe reflects

For the first time I can remember since he was a baby, I can see his eyes welling up. I want to reach out and hug him, but I don’t. Instead I look him in the eye. “Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.” (Love Life, Simon & Schuster, 2014, excerpted for

Whether children are just starting kindergarten, college, or somewhere in the middle, school is a time for parents to stand back a little, allow their children to launch, and hope and pray that they’ll not only be safe and okay, but thrive. We hope they can stand up to bullies without becoming one, that they will not cave in to peer pressure, and be equipped to make good choices.

If we hold them when they’re little, love them all along the way, take time for them, let go in small increments as the time comes, and teach them about Someone whose love, power, and guidance is always there, we have likely done the best we can.

That doesn’t mean it is easy or that there won’t be huge hurdles in their education or home lives, but there is an abundance of wonderful teachers and professors out there who, we hope, will come into their lives and help them along, too.

For a free booklet especially for teens and parents, request Peer Pressure: Making Good Choices in Tough Situations by writing to Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802, or email.

Posted 9/4/2014 7:00:00 AM

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