A key marker in any parent’s life is when their child goes off to school for the first time. Whether it’s to kindergarten, or when our kids leave home for college, it stirs up emotions within us.

For some, it’s relief that their kid is finally out of the house because they are so ready for him or her to be gone. For others, it’s a bit of grief because WE’RE not quite ready when our kids go off to school for the first time.

Listen in as we consider the emotional impact of our offspring entering this new chapter in their life. Because as a parent it’s a new chapter in OUR life as well.

And even if you have no children, there’s something for you, too, in today’s episode to help enhance your relationships.

I must admit, It caught me by surprise.

My reaction to our twin grandsons, Grant and George going off to college for the first time. They were so done with dealing with their senior year of high school and all the COVID disappointments that came with it. They were eager to move on.

Janet and I, not so much. This was going to be a BIG CHANGE. Weeks before they moved into their dorm I felt waves of sadness coming over me. It was the same feeling I had when their parents and our daughter went off to college in the last century. For when our kids go off to school for the first time it can be an emotion-filled time of life.

I thought I was done with this kind of thing. I wasn’t. It reminded me of when we sent our own kids off to kindergarten for the first time. The difference is when you put them on that yellow school bus, you see them later in the afternoon when they come home. When you send them off to college, you may not see them until Thanksgiving.

And it’s not just the sadness I felt. There was also a little anxiety sprinkled in. I never worried if they were going to master kindergarten. But with starting college, thoughts of “will they make it academically” came up. Both our grandsons did very well in high school with high GPAs, but college is harder. Will they make it?

So here I’m feeling sadness, and a little fear. What I wasn’t feeling was any sense of joy.

Hmm. Joy?

But then, the more time we spent around George and Grant, the more joy we saw in their lives as they got ready for college. Their joy was contagious. I started to feel more like they were feeling – even in the midst of my sadness and worry.

So I hopped on their joy truck, and here is where it took me:

It took me to feeling their joy in buying things they had saved for college. A backpack, a laptop, snacks for their dorm room, etc. Using  their graduation money to start the next chapter of their life. I found joy in this.

It took me to feeling the joy of how, because of their part-time jobs, they acquired confidence in their relational skills. They seemed much more at ease with adults and other people not like them. I found joy in this as well.

It took me to feeling the joy in the way they selected the college they were going to attend. I saw how they based their decision on their values and guidance from God and their parents.

It took me to feeling the joy and pride for my son and his wife in how they have raised their sons

Where their joy truck took me

Their joy took me to feeling proud of the value system Grant and George developed during their teenage years. The way they talk about politics and their faith, totally independent of what their peers may believe.

It took me to feeling joy in watching how both boys dealt with setbacks in their lives, and how they compensated for things beyond their control. Such valuable lessons they learned through this.

Their joy took me to feeling joy in seeing them bond with their parents and their younger sister, where most of the time they’d rather spend time with their family than their peers.

It took me to feeling joy in picturing them in a career four years from now that brings out the best in them.

Their joy took me to feeling the joy of shared memories, knowing more memories will be created in the future

Well, I could go on and on and bore you to tears if I haven’t already done so. But I think by now you get the idea.

Namely, when our kids leave home for school, the feelings of sadness or worry diminishes the more we find joy in the midst of those feelings.

If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode.

Sending our child off to their first day at school, whether kindergarten or university, can evoke a lot of emotion, often sadness and worry. But those emotions diminish the more we share in the joy our kids are experiencing in this new chapter of their life.

I hope that in the midst of YOUR sadness and whatever it is YOU worry about, you will find a measure of joy. It’s harder to find at times, that’s for sure. But if we look hard and long enough, chances are we’ll see it. Especially if we ask God to show it to us.

Here’s what you can do in response to today’s show.

Reach out to a parent of a child getting on the school bus for the first time, and ask how they’re doing.

Call a parent who just got back from taking their kid to college and hauling their boxes of stuff to their first dorm room. “How did it go for you?”

In either case, send a card or note in the mail that says something along the lines of

“I’ve been thinking about you, and praying for you as you process (kids name) heading off to school/college for the first time. I imagine it may be difficult to end one chapter of parenting, and entering this new unknown one.” Something like that.

You can get some other ideas if you read my blog post, Ask Someone What They are Feeling.

Podcast episode 64, Start with this Important Question to Ask, will also give you some ideas for when our kids go off to school for the first time.

As always, another thing you could do is let me and your fellow listeners know what resonated with you about today’s episode. You can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes. Or you can send them to me in an email to john@caringforothers.org.

By the way, did you know this podcast and our blog posts are sponsored by Caring for Others, a missionary care ministry?  We depend upon the generosity of donors to pay our bills.  If you'd like to support what we do with a secure tax-deductible online donation, please click here. We'd be so grateful if you did. It will enable us to serve more people.


I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

 Our Relationship Quote of the Week

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.    ~ Romans 12: 15

That’s all for today. See you next week. Bye for now.