iStock.com/kingvald
iStock.com/kingvald

The lazy days of summer are beginning to fade into fond memories. The natural cycle of one season drawing to a close and another one beginning brings with it new opportunities and challenges for all of us.

During the Yorim Noraim, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we’re urged to take stock of our present states and try new experiences that will elevate us toward becoming better people. We have to leave our comfort zones to continue developing and growing. We can look to God, the Torah and clergy for guidance, and to our family and friends for the encouragement we need to navigate the unknown, but we will ultimately have to rely on the reserves we have developed for coping.

When a child goes off to school—be it nursery school or college—initially he or she experiences distress at the separation and the new experience. Yet separation from family is an important step in all children’s individualization. The child’s expression of sadness, loneliness, anger or fear helps him or her deal with these emotions, and eventually master them. As the child becomes acclimated to the new situation, his or her heightened discomfort and emotional stress will dissipate.

For some children, this takes longer—but it will happen. For parents, the challenge is providing a level of support that’s comforting, but allows the child to stretch and develop those necessary coping skills. Here are some ideas for making the transition to school more comfortable for your child:

  • Practice goodbyes and hellos: Tell your child when you’re leaving the room or the house and that you’ll be back—never sneak out.
  • Hire a babysitter a few times so your child can experience separation, care by an outsider and home-coming.
  • Read stories together that address separation and reunion, such as “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn.
  • Don’t talk about going to school at bedtime. Rather, during the day, a few days before the first day, create a special ritual by putting together the items your child will take to school.

This stretching outside our comfort zones to accommodate new situations is a human condition that occurs throughout our lives. Enabling children to develop the reserves they will need to readjust to new experiences and challenges is a wonderful Rosh Hashanah gift that you can give this year.

Johanna Perlin is the nursery school director at Temple Shalom of Newton.