Every parent needs to do this ONE thing to get through the first day of school/college drop-off


Every year I re-gift you with this exercise because it is THAT powerful.

And this is it parents. It’s the time when we are dropping our children off to college, when our younger ones are starting their first days of kindergarten, middle or high school…all of it is nerve-wracking. We haven’t had our first day here yet in the Northwest but since I know many of you are going through it already, I’m gifting it before my first day. Just know, I will be doing this with you too!

I call it the Tug-of-Gratitude Exercise.

And it goes like this….Every time you feel a challenging emotion (To be clear: all of those are important to feel so don’t try to squash them, this exercise is just a way to complement them)…

Pull back with a Tug of Gratitude.

I’ll show you what I mean below. I haven’t had my first day yet but I know it’ll be a doozie ‘cause it’s my oldest’s junior year (WHA?? How did that happen??), my middle son’s last year of middle school (Oh no, please slow it down!) and my youngest’s first day of middle school! (Yep, no more sweet-circle-time-filled-elementary school for me!!)

So, I’ll repurpose how I did it a couple of years ago to help you see how to do this exercise. Trust me, my friend, this will help EVERY Time!

The two biggest reasons this exercise will save you EVERY TIME are:

  • Gratitude is one of the best companions to pain. When we are in pain, feeling gratitude lights up parts of our brain that give us comfort, new perspectives and make us feel safe. (What Mama doesn’t need that on the first day of school?!?)

  • Gratitude brings us to the present moment. The truth is when you’re feeling all that pain, you’re in some nostalgia of the past or worry about the future, even if it’s just the future of how that day will go for your child. You’re MISSING the moment right in front of you!! Don’t do that, don’t miss this milestone. Gratitude will show you how.

This example was from two years ago. Just reading it gives me all the feels again!

The first day of school…And it was a doozie. Such a mixed bag of emotions for me and I definitely needed this exercise!

It was my oldest son's first day of high school. An emotional day for many parents for sure. Your first born entering high school, really taking flight, only four more years in the home, it all rushes to you. Nervousness for him socially, for the choices he will be faced with, the increased academic pressures, all of it. 

It was my middle son's first day of middle school. So that day had two new schools, two new transitions and big milestones. To add to it, my middle son knew no one in this middle school because he changed neighborhoods that year. He was a rock star of sorts at his elementary school and now knew no one at all. That could be the situation for many kids but his added challenge is that he’s in a wheelchair, has cognitive delay as well and is basically very different to the kids around him. (and of course, I am scared because middle school kids don't tend to be as forgiving and welcoming as elementary kids) To add to all that, the school district characteristically dragged their feet all summer so he did not have an instructional aide in place which is the key to his success.

It was my youngest's first day in fourth grade in a school she knows and loves so this was my "easiest" first day child that day. I would love to say she is my "baby" but she had flown from the nest faster than the other two. She is her own person and fiercely independent. When she got to school, she learned she wasn't with the friends she had been expecting to be with all summer and I could tell she was not sure how to emotionally express that disappointment balanced with her utter excitement to get to school. 

And to add to all of it, the night before was a circus. All three kids had a bad night's sleep, played musical beds and I was up from 3-5 with my middle son. So that morning was pure chaos!

When you are in the thick of all of that, the adrenaline to get them all ready and where they need to go, to three different schools, keeps you focused on the task at hand. I felt things in my body like my heart racing and some intermittent tightness in my chest. And I finally cried like crazy. All of my emotions came to a head and they were a tangled mess. I wasn't even sure what I felt. 

But this is what I did during the whole morning.

This is the one thing that saved me and might just save you.

And you can't buy it where you get your school supplies...You can’t call it a tug of war because it’s more a tug of love because gratitude can really be your best friend. Different emotions pulled on me for each child, many very challenging and I tugged back with gratitude, every time

For my oldest:

I felt rushes of pride for sure, so proud of all he is and yet to become. But what I also felt was rushes of nostalgia as I realized he was really growing up and becoming his own young man. Not needing me as much as he used to. I felt rushes of fear as my own high school experience which was not very positive tugged at my heart, hoping his experience would be different. Fear, anxiety, sadness, letting go all tangled up in my heart. Tugging tightly on my heart.

And with every painful tug, I tugged back with:
"I am grateful that he has the privilege to go to school.

I am grateful that he is finding himself as a young man.

I am grateful because all of my sadness means that I love so deeply." 

For my middle son:

I felt so so much fear that the kids would tease him or worse yet bully him. I felt so much fear that he would have an accident at school and the kids would feel that he is even more different than them. I felt so much nervousness that we would not find an instructional aide who could support him well to learn as much as he can. I felt so much anxiety around this new school, new principal and teachers who yet don't know him and might feel that he is a burden in their classroom. I felt sadness that he couldn't just walk into school like the other kids. I felt sadness that something so simple as school had to be so painful for me. And on and on.

And with every painful tug, I tugged back with:
"I am grateful that he has a school that can welcome him and hopefully celebrate his differences.

I am grateful that he teaches me (and others) every day the power of love and tolerance.

And I am grateful because my fear means that I can learn to trust more deeply."

For my youngest:

I felt mostly elation that she was getting back to school because she loves it so much. But I did also feel a tug of sadness as she refused to take a picture by her classroom sign, her fierce independence and desire to be "grown up" coming through. I felt sadness for her and her two best friends who were crying that she was not in her classroom. And I felt nostalgia that my youngest baby was certainly not a baby anymore.

And with every painful tug, I tugged back with: 
"I am grateful that she loves school so much.

I am grateful that her separation from her friends might open other friendships for her.

And I am grateful because my sadness about her getting older teaches me to celebrate the milestones of life." 

Every time you move yourself to gratitude, whatever challenging emotions you are feeling shift right there and then in the moment. 

It is impossible to feel all of that jumbled up stuff while also feeling gratitude for them.

Once you move to gratitude, you see the emotions for what they are, just emotions. They are normal, beautiful and sometimes so painful. But that's all they are. And when you feel grateful for all of them, even the really hard ones, they become more than just emotions. They become lessons. 

Gratitude is a constant teacher. It brings out the beauty and the teaching in all we experience. 

If you let it. 

When you feel an emotion tug on you these first days of school, tug back with gratitude. 

I hope that helps and let me know how it goes! I’ll dive deeper into this tomorrow on our Friday Facebook live at 9AM PST! So join me there!

Live well,


Tanmeet SethiComment