The Stress of Letting Children Go
8th September 2011
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One of my clients is the family of Mark and Clare Turner. They are very excited because their son Darren, who is nearly five years old, has just left kindergarten and is due to embark on a new chapter of his life by going to school full time.

But, at the same time, they are also nervous because this will be the first time that they will be "letting go" of their first child.

The reality is that this is big step for both parents and youngsters. Clare told me that a part of her is relieved because she will have more time for herself and her other children.

However, on the other hand, they are both sad because they know that they won't have so much control over Darren, who will now have other influences in his life around him such as his new teachers and peers.


They feel that their "special time" with him will, in future, be somewhat different and not be quite the same as the first years when they were his "whole world".

But I remind them that teachers are well aware of this emotional challenge that parents go through — many of them having children of their own.

Some reassurance for the parents, as well as the child, is needed when the small boy has been left crying at the school gate.

The school realises that this is a turning-point in the life of both the child and the parent(s) which is why an understanding approach, at this point, is really important.

Mothers and fathers alike also worry whether their child has made friends, and Mark and Clare told me that the playground has a "buddy bustop" where a child can wait if they have no-one to play with and a teacher will bring another child along.

I smiled when I heard this and thought that industry could learn a good deal from this innovative way of ensuring that everyone is involved.

Going forward

Life is a process of change, whatever age we are, and we need to always accept that fact.

And parenting is a constant "letting go" process which starts when our children are babies, up to when they grow up.

You want them to be independent but that doesn't mean that you don't feel sad when the reality of them going to school for the first time, hits you. Parents are also concerned that they won't be needed. But of course they will be but in a different way.

Starting school is the beginning of life's journey and every moment should be enjoyed.

Now I am not saying that it is not a challenge when you have to join the ‘school run' every morning and sit in queues of traffic, and when there is the necessity to ensure that homework is completed and that your child is properly equipped with sports equipment and school uniform. And then you both can't wait for the holidays to come back so that the daily pressure is lifted for a few weeks.

Constant challenge

As a mother of three, I can assure you that I remember those days as if it they were only yesterday. When my children were young, I had just established my stress consultancy and I remember the constant challenge to get them to school on time and properly dressed, clean and tidy.

They were tiring but busy days as I reflect on them now, with a smile.

Now fast forward to Darren, maybe 13 years or so, when he will be leaving school and home and, hopefully, going to university. Those ‘apron strings' again are very hard to break and the ‘letting go' is even more of a challenge and you long for the school run to come back again.

You think you have lost them forever but that is not so. Certainly they will have moved on but they will still need you, only again in a different way.

Hopefully, they will treat you, not just as a parent but also as a friend and when you get to this point, you smile again.

Finally, when university is finished and they settle down into their first job, then get married and have children of their own, you will become a proud grandparent. Then the circle of life begins again.


Key Points

Life is a process of change

Parenting involves ‘letting go'

We are all part of the circle of life


The author Carole Spiers is a BBC guest-broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London. Contact them for proven stress strategies -


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