At the first of the year, my mind is often brought back to the many “firsts” I have been blessed to witness my children experience. There are those “firsts” with which most dads are familiar – the first steps, first words, first days of school, first bike ride without training wheels, first driving lesson, and first date. Most of the aforementioned are joyous firsts, but of course we experience some hard firsts with our kids as well. First illness, first bumped head, first scraped knee, first fender bender, and first heartbreak. Other “firsts,” such as the first fall the eldest child is off at college, are a little bit of both – bittersweet in many ways. And as much as I like to think “firsts” are just for kids, I know they indeed are not. Life is full of what we adults call “changes,” but in truth, they are simply an endless stream of “firsts.”
Because of the nature of my job, a very real “first” my wife and I had to help our sons navigate came by way of moving. We had to work at giving our boys the opportunity to both experience all of the wonderful benefits of living in various cities, small towns, and even one other country, while maintaining a consistent sense of “home.” Many adults struggle with the change that moving brings, but to a child, it can be downright scary. While the majority of you reading this may not see yourself ever having to move your family from where you currently reside, some of the principles applied to making a move to a new place as smooth as possible can apply to so many other “firsts.” Especially “firsts” such as going from middle school to high school, leaving for college, or first days on a job. So, with that in mind, here are a few things I’ve learned along the “firsts” trail of life…
Remind yourself and your children – often – that getting used to something new takes time.
Before any move, we would tell our kids, “A year from now, you are going to love this place! You’ll see!” Okay, I know a year sounds like forever to our kids, but too many parents say unrealistic things such as, “You are going to have great friends on the very first day!” Um, more than likely, you won’t. But, when a kid is thinking 12 months, and 12 days later they make one, really good friend? Golden. Again, this also can apply to something such as a student simply moving from one grade level to the next. If we focus on this reality, we can find joy in the journey – guaranteed!
Build knowledge and excitement for the adventure ahead!
Study, explore and discuss various aspects of the upcoming “first.” Nervous about the first day of school? Call the school and see if you can take your child on a private tour of the building to get acclimated without feeling overwhelmed. Rent a fun James Patterson movie based on one of his middle school novels. Share your own experiences – both good and embarrassing, as your child will love hearing them. If you’re moving, get online, search the local parks, history, festivals, and events. If you’re moving before the school year begins, see if there are some summer programs you can get your kids in that will help them get to know other kids so that “first day” later on is easier to look forward to than dread.
Stay Gold . . . and Silver
My wife drove us nuts singing it, but there’s some solid truth to the old Girl Scout song, “Make new friends, but keep the old . . . one is silver and the other’s gold.” She was forever telling our boys that with each new experience was the opportunity to gather more friends. At the same time, we worked hard to make it as easy as possible for the boys to maintain the cherished friendships they already had . . . and don’t underestimate the Gold and Silver of your own family. With each new adventure, we were poised with the opportunity draw closer to each other like never before. As a dad, that’s what I treasured most!
Whatever “firsts” you are facing as a family, more than any other tried and true advice I can offer is simply the reminder that when facing the “firsts” together, remember that they can be the firsts of many great things to come.