Tagged with " separation anxiety"

The Dos and Don’ts of Separation Anxiety

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Separation Anxiety can be tough on children newly entering school age.The crying, the screaming, the kicking, the knotted stomach. Dealing with separation issues are all expected feelings and our children may also have issues with saying goodbye. You have researched, interviewed and toured your daycare center and now it’s time for you and your child to find a way to say goodbye and let your caregivers do their job. Separation anxiety is a natural part of your child’s attachment and relationship with you; it isn’t something you need to fix. But below are some Do’s and Don’ts regarding separation anxiety that hopefully you’ll find helpful.


The Dos…

  • Transition you child into their new daycare setting.  After you have picked your facility, bring your child for a tour. Have them meet their new teacher and explore their classroom. See if it’s possible to start the first day or two part-time and ease them into their new environment.
  • Talk with your child about you childcare arrangement. Be specific. Today you are going to your classroom, hang your coat on your hook, put your lunch in the cubby, do circle time and play with your friends at the Playdough table.
  • Say goodbye. It’s the most important Do on this list. Put on a big smile, give your child a hug and a kiss, say goodbye and let them start their daycare day. See the Don’ts for what not to do when saying goodbye.
  • Establish a drop-off ritual. Children crave routines and schedules, so create one when going to daycare. Maybe a secret handshake, an Eskimo kiss, stealing their nose or collaborate on a secret phrase. Whatever you decide, use it. Every day!
  • Be honest. Talk to you child about what they are feeling and why. Ask them what makes them upset at preschool to see if anything can easily be overcome by you or the teacher.  Talk to your child about all the new things they will learn and friends they will make. Read some books with your child about preschool and separation. Here are just a few examples:
  • Leave your child with an item from home. Check with your daycare provider to see if you could leave a picture of your child’s family, a stuffed animal to nap with or a cherished blanket to sleep with. By leaving your child with a part of home, you will remind your little learner of home.
  • Be prepared for regressions. When you think you have overcome the toughest period of the anxiety, a long weekend or holiday break will sneak up and you may find yourself back to the worst of separation issues. This is normal. Be patient. After some time things should get back to normal.

And now the Don’ts…

  • Don’t sneak out without saying goodbye. This is easier for you, but not for your child or your child’s teacher. Additionally, sneaking out, while seemingly sensible, can damage the trust your child has with you.
  • Never let them see you sweat (Or even worse, cry!). Put on your game face. Your child takes their cues from you, so don’t show that you are nervous or anxious. Don’t give them a “boo-boo face” when saying goodbye. If you feel the waterworks coming on, hold it in until you are back in your car. Being a strong mommy or daddy will ease your child’s fears.
  • Try to avoid prolonging your exit. Remember: it’s only for a few hours. With a big smile, give them a quick hug and kiss and then leave. Remember – game face!
  • Don’t come right back after you’ve made your exit. If you forgot something, call the school and arrange to collect it when you pickup your child. If you bravely left your screaming child and you want to see if they have calmed down, wait 30 minutes and call the school to find out. Coming back confuses your child about the new process and is likely to upset you too.

Separation anxiety can’t be fixed. It’s a process that you and your child work together through to form an established routine and plan. Your child will learn to trust that you will always come back for them and they will also learn that you will always be with them, even if you are not actually with them during school hours.

What do you think? Has your child struggled with separation anxiety? What did you do to comfort your worried little one?

Photo credit: Interchangeable Parts

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