As we move into the second week of school-and our first Monday-we commonly see a spike in separation anxiety. This is a normal part of transitioning for some of our children. Teachers see it in every school, every year. There is no denying that it can tug on the adults’ heartstrings.
There are some things that we can do to make separation easier, both at home and at school. For most children, separation anxiety should taper off by early next week, and coming to school will begin to feel like the new norm. For others, this phase will last longer and we will need to work together to come up with a plan that meets your child’s needs. Experts agree that the short good-bye is the best for children. Staying with your child only prolongs the inevitable. We like to have parents stay in the lobby and have children walk into the classroom by themselves whenever possible. The classroom teachers can sometimes meet families in the lobby if needed. If your child does need you to walk her/him into the classroom, please do so, but do not stay long. On the flip side, we do not recommend that parents sneak away, it’s important that they know you are leaving and you will be back.
Often, children will cry at drop-off and then get into the routine for the rest of the day. While you are home worrying about your child, he or she is busy making new friends, discovering new work and enjoying the day. Please feel free to call the school any time and we will let you know how your child is doing. Our teachers believe in nurturing the children and meeting them where they are. That means that even if your child is crying during the day, the teachers are giving them whatever they need-hugs, attention, reassurance etc. Bonding with a teacher or assistant teacher allows your child to feel safe.
At home, creating a good-bye routine with your child can be a fun way to make the separation easier. This is something simple that you can decide on together in the afternoon or evening when your child is not feeling anxious. Maybe it is “Every day when you leave for school we will give each other two high fives and a hug.” Having your child help design the routine is another way to honor who they are.
Because this is a normal experience, there are several books out there about the first days of school and about separation. I Love You All Day Long, The Kissing Hand, and The Night Before Kindergarten are great books to get you started. And if you feel creative, you and your child can write your own book, too.
Consistency at home will ease your child’s angst and help them know what they can expect. This would include going to bed and waking up around the same time every day. Having breakfast each day and doing his/her morning routine in the same steps. In our house, when my children were younger, we had a chart with photos of our children doing their morning routine. There would be a photo of them eating breakfast, brushing their teeth and so on. Each time they did one of their tasks they hung their photo on a Velcro board. The last task would be “Go to school,” which they could hang up right before we left. You could take a photo of your child with all of his/her school gear, smiling and ready to go.
We want your children to love school and to see it as the wonderful, delightful place that it is. If your child is still finding separation hard after a couple of weeks, your classroom teacher will meet with you to customize a drop-off plan that works best for your child. Hang in there, it’s going to get easier!
To read more about my own separation anxiety, check out this post from September 2013 http://harbormontessori.org/separation-angst/