School Jitters You’re nervous about Junior starting school, but your spouse isn’t. Who’s being rational here? BY FRANCINE KIZNER
Packing up the kids and sending them to school can be nerve wracking.
As the summer winds down to a close and you’re hitting the first back-to-school sale of the season, you can’t help but get a little nervous. Will the teacher be mean? Will the little guy miss you too much? What if he gets picked on, or worse, doesn’t make any friends? Maybe you should hold your child back a year—he does seem young for his age.
The First-Day Nerves
You can’t stop your mind from racing. But, while you’re filled with worry and doubt, your spouse just says, "He needs to be a big boy," and seems unsympathetic to your stress. What do you do then?
Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout, psychologist and mother of triplets—one of whom has special needs—felt marriage stress as she sent her young girls off to preschool for the first time. "I was concerned about everything, including their physical safety and emotional well-being," she says.
And worse, Dr. Brout felt her husband didn’t fully understand her anxiety. "It was difficult for him to understand the emotional struggle—the maternal guilt and the worry—that I experienced," she says. "Sometimes I resented his inability to really comprehend this and sometimes he became annoyed by my complaining."
Seeing Eye to Eye
So how can you get back on the same page? "Take a step back, and look at your common goals," says Dr. Rebecca Rutledge, psychologist and author of Playskool Guide to the Toddler Years. "You both want your child to go to school, have fun and enjoy the experience, but you need to realize that you’re each handling the situation differently."
To get to the bottom of the conflict, let your partner in on how you’re feeling—and what you need to feel better. Says Dr. Rutledge, "Remember, not all feelings are based on reason, so they don’t necessarily have to make sense to your partner."
And if you’re on the other side of the fence, feeling your spouse is being a bit overdramatic, try to be sensitive and offer some constructive, concrete examples of why there’s really no need to worry. "The worst thing you can do is ridicule the anxious parent," says Dr. Rutledge. "Dismissing or discounting your spouse’s feelings as being irrational or silly won’t make them go away. Instead, point out instances where your toddler has been successful on his own, like leaving you to go on play dates or overnights with Grandma."
Don’t forget that starting school is only a one-time event—or at least once-yearly if you’re prone to stress over each grade level. What you really need to concentrate on is what will happen once school starts. Dr. Brout says, "The additional pressures of either paying for preschool or the homework that now begins as early as kindergarten may certainly add pressures." But, she adds, "On the other hand, parents will find new ways to bond with each other as they watch their children grow and learn."
In the end, you’ll finally be able to get some kid-free time at home during the day, especially if you and your spouse play hooky. So enjoy it.