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Kids Have a Tough Time Saying Goodbye, But Parents Can Help

girl waving goodbye
This past Friday, after a two-hour play date at our house and then four hours in the park, my daughter was crushed at having to say goodbye to her friends at the end of the night. Saturday was a similar situation, and, as far as I can tell, these difficulties are not likely to end anytime soon. Even though she's a big almost-fourth-grader now, endings and transitions are still tough for her—and a lot of other kids, too.

I'm more than a little worried about what will happen when school lets out later this month (New York City schools go until June 26!). Despite going to the local public elementary school, I know there are some classmates my daughter won't really see until classes start again in September. Plus, we've got a couple weeks of day camp this summer and will be spending several weeks in Florida where she's bound to connect with other kids who she will be sad to leave.

So, as you can imagine, I was relieved to see advice on "How to Help Your Kids Say Goodbye" on Time.com this morning. According to expert Susan Linn, a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, we as parents need to help our kids build a foundation to deal with change.

First, we shouldn't assume we know how they are feeling about saying goodbye. Good to know! Maybe my daughter will actually be so relieved to be out of school for the summer she won't be sad to say goodbye to some of her classmates for a few months. So, the first question I should ask her is, "How do you feel about saying goodbye?" instead of, "Are you sad to say goodbye to your friends?"

Next, I can talk to my daughter about whatever feelings she is having, and help her find a balance between whatever possibly conflicting emotions she is experiencing—like relief at school being over paired with the sadness of not seeing some friends for a few months. Emotions are tricky! I like how Linn points out that having two emotions don't cancel each other out. Even if you're moving ahead to something good, that doesn't mean you aren't sad about what you're leaving behind.

Finally, parents can help kids with transitions by encouraging them to mark them with something meaningful. Maybe this is just helping my daughter develop a goodbye ritual with her friends to honor that even just ending a playdate is a big moment, or writing little notes to her classmates to hand out on the last day of school. I can also let her take the lead on this, asking, "Is there anything you'd like to do to say goodbye?" Maybe she has some ideas of her own!

Related: Handling Tough Transitions 

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Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who is very excited about summer despite the impending good-byes. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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