Growing Pangs

Dear Parentworks,

My this is my daughter's last month at the school she's gone to for a few years. Out of the blue, she's been talking about how much she'll miss this child or that one - and these are not even kids she played with much over these years. Whenever she does this she seems very sad. To try and take her mind off this, I've been pointing out how they weren't that great of friends to begin with and reminding her of how much fun she'll have next year in middle school. This doesn't seem to be working very well, in fact sometimes it just makes her more sad. Is there anything else I could be doing?

- Saving Her from Sadness

Dear Saving,

You daughter is in a period of transition. She is experiencing very natural "split" feelings of good/bad, love/hate, old/new - in other words the reality of coming to terms with growing up. It is very important for her learning and coming to terms with these types of polar opposite feelings, to be allowed to experience both of the feelings. If we pressure our children to not feel something that they are in fact feeling inside, they begin to feel that there must be something bad or wrong with those feelings. If they learn to explore the old/new feelings and are allowed to talk freely about them, they will be better able to come to terms with and resolve them on their own. 

It is important that you acknowledge for her that she feels sad leaving the familiar. Even if children weren't close at least they were a known commodity and over the years there is a bond even with on again/off again friendships. She doesn't need you to save her from her sadness. Let her know it is OK and that you understand. Let her talk about the things she'll miss. At some point you can balance the discussion with things she also did not like about her years there so she is not left with a total feeling of idolizing her past experiences.  If she wants she could get a signature book for her classmates to sign the last day of school, or she could bring a disposable camera to capture that last day - come up with your own ideas. This can help her come to terms with saying goodbye. Then in stead of hiding from her feelings she will have the success of getting through this small victory. 

Both you and your daughter need to realize that the rocky road to maturity has begun. She doesn't need you to save her from life but she will greatly benefit from your listening to her, giving her skills and then letting her learn to cope.