Whether you have experienced difficult drop off or seen it happen, all parents know about separation anxiety. It’s that dreaded moment where you child makes you feel like the worse parent ever. Trust me, you’re not.
Separation anxiety is normal. Not every child experiences it, but it isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Teachers see it everyday, but parents often don’t know what’s the best way to handle it.
Here are some tips to conquer separation anxiety;
Establish (and keep) a routine
Children need to know what is happening. Schedules and routines make children feel safe. Being able to predict what is going to happen gives them confidence and security.
Put a schedule in place that is easy to follow. You can also create a picture schedule for the child to follow. Simply take pictures of the child doing what is on the schedule such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc. The child will be able to follow the routine on their own if you are consistent.
Preparing for school should also have a routine. Perhaps it is talking about what they would like to do at school or guessing what might be for lunch. Talk about their friends they will see and what they might play.
Talk about what is going to happen
Communication is huge in any relationship. Your child is no different. Ask the teacher for the daily schedule. If you are dropping them off at 8 am, you can talk about the activities that will happen after they are dropped off. This will help prepare them.
Don’t forget to talk about what will happen when you pick them up. This gives them something to look forward to. They will also know that you will be coming back for them.
Many years ago, I had a mom bringing her toddler to school for the first time. Mom cried every. Single. Day. The little girl was so anxious. She cried for a bit, then just shut down the rest of the day. She was very wary of us. When mom came to pick up, the little girl would burst into tears again.
Mom and I had a heart to heart. I told her, “You can’t act like you are getting ready to drop her off into a pit a snakes every morning! However you act about coming here is how she will act.”
Mom started coming in smiling and laughing. She would talk positively about how much fun school was going to be. I wish I could say the change was overnight. But it wasn’t long. It only took a week or so for the little girl to calm down, and give us a chance.
Be sure to talk about how fun school is, what things they like best about their teacher and their favorite activities. Children feed off of you emotions and reactions. If you act negatively about school or the teacher, they will have the same reaction. Even if you are sad to drop the, off, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Put a smile on and be happy.
Short and sweet
Drop off should be short, sweet and to the point. Just like your routine at home and coming to school, your drop off routine should be the same. Come in, put your child’s things away, talk to the teacher/sign in. Give your child a hug and a kiss and say good bye.
There are fun ways to say goodbye to make it a happy experience:
- See you later, alligator!
- Gotta go, buffalo!
- Take care, polar bear!
- See you soon, raccoon!
- Til then, penguin!
- Be sweet, parakeet!
- Too-da-loo, kangaroo!
Don’t go bacK
You will be tempted. Just one more hug, one more kiss. Just like that glass of water children inevitably need at bedtime, so are the extra hugs. It is important to let your child know that you love them and you will be back soon.
Don’t linger in the hall, Children are magical, They know. They always know. It’s important say your goodbyes and head out. Here’s why. Trust. If you say you are leaving, but the child sees you still there, they lose trust. Then next time you say you are leaving, they will look for you. When you aren’t there, they become confused. Plus, standing around to listen to them cry does no one any good.
let’s talk about it
Yup, communication again. On your way home from school, talk about school. Ask open ended questions. Let them talk about what bothers them, what they enjoy, how they spent their day.
It is important to have open communication so if they are having a hard time at school, you can find out how to help them.
An extra tip: consistency. With children, consistency is always the key.
You CAN do this!