Oh, my goodness, he was shaking. He looked like he wanted to run in the opposite direction as fast as his legs could take him. While I had only known him a few weeks, this behavior was very abnormal for Dan-Moritz, the German teen living in my home.
Up until this moment, he had been full of confidence and bravado. But it was 7:15 a.m., the first day of school. American high school.
My husband had gotten him registered the week before. Dan knew how to open his locker, where to find his classes, and how to buy his lunch. He already knew a few kids, and he spoke perfect English. He had been beyond excited about his year in America. So why the nervousness?
One word: Transition.
We often think that it’s the transition itself that is the problem. But the external circumstances rarely are the problem; they are just circumstances. Kids can navigate circumstances—even extremely stressful ones—if they have just one thing: secure attachment.
Attachment believes that the quality of the parent-child relationship helps children form a secure sense of self. Research has shown that securely attached children develop better relationships and have more life success overall. Securely attached children are not perfect, but they do have more resiliency, more optimism, and more hope.
Whoa, Mama, now take a breath. I know the moment you read securely attached your anxiety may have hit the roof. It is true that children develop secure attachment from their primary caregiver, AKA you. That’s a lot of responsibility for a mom to carry!
But here’s the good news: Secure attachment is very simple to facilitate. Respond to your child’s feelings rather than to their external circumstances. The goal of your responses should be to build your child’s independent, secure self rather than to solve their problems.
I know it’s not easy. Because on that first day of American high school, every inch of me wanted to drive Dan to school, walk him to class, and make sure that he made a nice friend to sit with him during scary cafeteria lunch. But that approach would have created more insecurity for him in the long run. Instead, I gave him a hug and said, “Sweetie, I know you’re anxious but you made it here from halfway across the world all on your own. You are strong. You can do this.” He walked out the door–still shaking–but headed in the right direction.
Psalm 131:2 says, “But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” This psalm is about a quiet, formative trust that God will get us through anything. You don’t have to worry or frantically try to control your child’s transition. You can let go, and you can let your child go.
Because their heavenly Daddy’s got this.
After all, you don’t want to be driving your kid to his first day at a new job when he’s 45. He’ll need to be able to do that on his own, even if he’s shaking.