Back to school is in full swing! BLEH! How did the summer go by so fast!? With going back to school, or for some of our young ones who are just starting school, it can be an extremely scary time! Leaving Mom and/or Dad is rough! It can sometimes cause some pretty serious separation anxiety.
One of the hardest parts of my day, as an educator, is to see children upset when their parents have to leave. It breaks my heart each and every time! Everyday I would remind the parents to just “rip off the band-aid” and leave quickly.
It sounded so easy and sounded like such a great idea…until I dropped my son off at his first day of “baby school”. He held on with a death grip,crying those big crocodile tears and ripping out my heart as I handed him over to his teacher. She then told me, “Just go! He’ll be fine!”. Um…I seriously wanted to smack her. I then had a flash back to all the times I told those poor parents to just walk away. (Yes, it is the BEST but the HARDEST thing to do!) I wonder how many parents left thinking, “Ooooooh, I wish I could just smack her right now!” (Probably all of them!)
The first experiences a child can have with separation anxiety can start as early as 7 months. It is, however, more common among babies in the 8 to 9 months range. Separation anxiety is a “social-emotional attachment to their parents and/or any other adult that may be very important to that child”. All kids can go through this stage several times throughout those tiny tot years. This is actually a developmental stage and is appropriate for kids to go through! Typically it is over for the most part by the time the child goes into the first grade. (I swear, I had mommy separation anxiety up until I got married….don’t tell anyone)
There are a few things that can determine how long each stage of separation anxiety lasts: The child’s age, the child’s personality/temperament, how the parents manage the emotional state, and how the teaching/day care staff supports the child and parent(s).
Separation anxiety can be shown in many different ways. Including (but not limited to): crying, screaming, clinging to the parent (usually mom), and/or refusing to go to teachers and/or other children. Once the parent leaves, the child might cry for about 5 to 10 minutes then typically they will stop. After a few more minutes they will normally start to engage in the given activities in the school. Although it is SO unbelievably hard to leave your child crying, it does not normally last long! And let your mind relax in knowing that your child will usually take comfort from a teacher when the parent leaves.
If nothing else, Take comfort in knowing that this is a normal, developmental stage of life!
So, there are the facts…..now, what you can do to help your child and yourself cope:
- Establish a nighttime routine. Make sure your child goes to bed at a decent time so they will not be too tired to get up the next morning. Being overtired can make a child more emotional. Therefore, it may be harder for them to separate from you.
- Get your child up each morning at the same time. Give yourself and your child enough time to get ready. Trying to rush children out the door creates an environment and feeling of stress, not only for your child, but for you as well. Starting off the day with stress and frustration can cause uneasy feelings as you drop them off.
- Take a few minutes to pick out a storybook and read to your child before leaving the house. This is called “settling” and can help calm children down and help both of you relieve a little stress. Give them special time, and enjoy just being together!
- Be upbeat about going to school. Tell them they are going to see their favorite teachers (give a name of a favorite staff member) and to play with their friends (name a few friends in the classroom). Make sure , if available, you have read the newsletter and/or lesson plans for that day so you can name off some of the things they will get to do that day. You can also tell them the menu for the day- especially if it is something they love and will look forward to eating.
- Once you arrive at the school, greet an talk to the child’s teacher for a quick minute. When you are warm and friendly with the staff and they treat you the same it shows your child that you trust the person that you are leaving them with. If you trust and care for them, it will ensure your child that it is okay that they stay with them. A teacher will usually take them by hand or put their arm around them to make them feel better. If they don’t automatically do this, don’t be afraid to ask a teacher to take your child and comfort them. This helps establish consistent morning/afternoon routine that your child can depend on each day when they come to school. If your child’s school does a morning activity that they ask parents to stay for, stay to participate in that activity as often as possible.
- Make sure you don’t linger at the school. ( I know!!!! HARDEST THING EVER!!! You probably want to smack me in the face right now….I know the feeling) The longer you stay the harder it will be for your child. Give your child a kiss and a hug, and tell them you will be back to pick them up after school or they will see you when they get off the bus from school. Make sure you do not go back into the school after walking out if you can help it. Don’t ever leave or let the child leave without saying goodbye.
- If you need re-assurance that your child is okay after you leave, feel free to call back and ask the teacher or staff to check on your child! Chances are, the teacher will say they are doing just fine!
Good Luck! And enjoy back to school time!!!
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