Learning to Leave

It’s the end of May, and we’re entering into those last few crazy days of end-of-year this and that.  Most of us feel like we’re screeching towards the finish line, with only three wheels left on the car.

Normally, the end of the school year is a time of reflection for kids, when they say goodbye to this year’s class and start thinking about the next year with new teachers and classmates.

Both my kids will be starting new schools next year, so this end-of-year is particularly significant for us.

My ten-year old said to me, “Mom? I think the last day of school is going to be really hard for me.”

Instinctively, I began to feel all jumpy and started to respond with, “It’ll be OK, honey! Everything will be fine. Try not to think about it!”

I am really not good with goodbyes, and looking back over my own life, I regret the way I handled many a “leaving” situation.

I even began to fantasize about skipping the last day of school altogether, to avoid dealing with all these feelings that she and I will both face.  She’s been at this school for seven years.  This isn’t going to be easy.

And then it dawned on me.

This is a very important teaching opportunity right under my nose.

It is my job, as her parent, to teach her how to leave.


Most human beings I know do not relish change.  We like being happy (or happy enough) in our comfort zones, and taking a risk on something unknown is sometimes too scary to imagine.

But we all do eventually find ourselves in transition mode, whether we want to or not. And even when we are the ones making the choice to leave our current path, it can still be very difficult closing that chapter.

Whether it’s a job, a relationship, or a place, leaving conjures up a bag of mixed emotions that are not always easy to navigate.

Personally, this is one of the things I’ve gotten pretty wrong over the years.

There are boyfriends, roommates, and jobs that I left without even looking in the rear view mirror.

And now that my age has brought some wisdom, I see that I did not handle these situations with grace.

I literally did not know the right way to leave.

So I took the coward’s way out, and stole off in the middle of the night.

But this is my chance to teach my children how it’s done.  Most of the process will be lost on the four-year old, but this is fertile teaching ground for my ten-year old girl.

The plan of attack for Learning to Leave:

Feel the Feelings

You are happy and excited about your new adventure.  You will also feel sad that you are leaving people you care about.  You may even feel regretful and anxious about having to say goodbye.

It is so very important that you allow yourself to fully experience these emotions. Do not try and stuff them down deep inside you to minimize their effect.  Even if your eyes begin to fill with tears, and the back of your throat begins to tickle, don’t fight it.  Let the feelings wash over you.  They won’t kill you.

Express the Feelings

Tell your friends and teachers that you’ll miss them.  Cry and hug them.  Do not be afraid of how you appear to onlookers.  Do not be afraid to “make a scene” or be labeled “emotional.”  You have a right to your feelings and to this experience.

Take a Deep Breath 

This is one of those defining moments that you will probably always remember. Take a mental snapshot.  Muster up every last bit of courage and strength inside of you, because it’s time to close this door.

Treat everyone you encounter today with kindness, regardless of how he or she has treated you, because you never know when you might cross paths with him or her again.

Leave on the highest note possible.

Focus on the Positives

God has put you on a new path that is going to be filled with new and wonderful things. You are doing a hard thing, and you will be rewarded. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Your true friends will always be your friends, and you will keep in touch with them.

Don’t get swept out so far into the sea of emotions that you can’t see the shore.  You are going to get through this and move on to something better for you.

Go Forward

Dry your eyes and say your goodbyes. Appreciate the experiences and lessons learned here. Hold your head high, chin up, and shoulders back. Walk out with grace and dignity knowing you gave it your best.

Praise God for your blessings.

Most importantly, don’t forget who you are and where you are going.

And as hard as it is, don’t look back.


  1. Leaving (or any ending, really) can be so sad. This is a really thoughtful way to approach it and help your kids through it. xo

    1. Thanks, Shell. Leaving gracefully is definitely a learned skill.

  2. I love this I have a hard time with endings and my son has trouble with change in general, so I appreciate these tips.


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