"Early Years Are Learning Years"

Separation Anxiety

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Are you nervous about putting your child in a new school? Does your son have a hard time separating from you in new situations? Or, has your daughter gone to the same preschool for the past year without any problems, then suddenly one day begins crying and protesting that you don’t leave her? As a parent, you only want what’s best for your child, but it can be hard to balance your emotions with necessity when it comes to an upset child. You want to know that they will be happy and feel secure at preschool, but walking away from your crying son or daughter can leave you second guessing your choice.

“Separation is a developmental challenge. When adults take children’s feelings seriously, talk to them honestly, and give them lots of understanding support, children can learn ways to cope with separation successfully, both now and in the future. Responding to ‘I want my mommy!’ is only the beginning.”

Tips to Ease Separations:

  • Always tell your child the truth—that you are leaving but you will be back. Don’t disappear without notice. Sneaking out does not build trust! Say: ‘Mommy is going to work and I will come back to get you after your nap’ (or whatever time, based on an activity in the child’s schedule.).
  • Always talk to your child about the happy experiences to expect in the new situation. Help your child look forward to a favorite activity or person.
  • Keep a brief schedule of your child’s activities or discuss your child’s day with the caregiver as time permits. Use that information to reinforce the good times as you talk to your child. One of the least fruitful questions a parent can ask a child is ‘What did you do in school today?’ because the response is usually ‘Nothing.’ But if you were to ask, ‘Who did you sit next to at snack?’ you may open up an entire conversation about your child’s day.
  • Prepare your child for anew separation. Prior to the first day, make a short visit and include a tour of the facility. Show your child where his belongings will go, where the bathrooms are, and where he will nap.
  • When your child’s first day arrives, be prepared for your own separation anxiety. Don’t prolong your goodbye, and once you’re said goodbye, leave. If you are concerned about your child during the day, call your caregiver. Most parents discover that all was well shortly after their departure.
  • Help your child choose a part of home to bring to child care if he wants. Often a blanket, snuggly toy, or familiar photograph extends the security of home to the unfamiliar setting. A ‘blankie’ is a tactile comfort that smells, feels, and looks like home.
  • Watch for your child’s individual expressions of anxiety—wetting pants, thumb sucking, or other behavior changes. Patience and understanding from parents and caregivers will help your child cope with his feelings.
  • Be prepared for separation anxiety to appear after a seemingly painless initial adjustment. (Many teachers call this responses ‘Second week-itis’) The child is now comfortable enough to show his true feelings. Don’t mistake this apparent delayed reaction with indications that something is wrong with the caregiver and withdraw the child needlessly.
  • Reading stories about separation experiences can help prepare your child for a new situation and the feelings he may have.”
  • A new care giving situation can be upsetting for both parent and child, but with some preparation and suggestions, parents and caregivers can work together to ease the transition from how to childcare.” (Excerpt from “Separation: Easing the transition from how to child care,” Children’s Home Society of California, ©1999)

    Our number one goal at Kids’ Care Club is to create a safe and nurturing environment for your child to grow and learn in. We believe it is extremely important to make the transition process as smooth as possible. That’s why we encourage every child entering our program to visit their new classroom at least twice before starting (a half hour visit, then an hour long visit). This gives your child an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the classroom environment and schedule. During these visits, our teachers will guide the new child through the routines and begin building the oh so important teacher-child bond. If you have an infant, we will also provide new parents the opportunity to sit down with their baby’s primary caregiver to go over their “Needs and Services,” an important document that outlines an infant’s care giving needs, including feedings, sleeping and soothing routines.

    You can find more information about separation anxiety at www.parents.com and www.scholastic.com.

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