Separation Part 2Nov 21
This is the second installment of my series of posts on separation. The first post can be found here: www.yikedat.com/parenting/separation/. While the first post talked about the “Why” of separation, this post will discuss the “How”. How to prepare yourself and your child for separation, and how to handle separation anxiety when it comes up.
I know, I know, it’s been far too long since the last time I wrote about separation, but, better late than never, right?
If you read the first post about separation, you know all about the vast array of things that can make separation difficult for children, and for parents, especially when it’s the first time a child is going to be away from home. Some children never have any separation anxiety, but many do, and there are some very simple ways to prevent it, and to help it if and when it happens.
I’ll be sticking to school as an example of a place where separation occurs, but these tips can be used in any instance where a child is separating from his or her caregivers.
Preparing for Separation:
The absolute most common reason, as far as I’ve seen, that children have a hard time with separation at school, is when the child’s parents aren’t calm. If a parent is nervous about leaving their child, the child will be nervous about leaving. The calmer you are when you’re leaving your child, and when you’re talking about school, or the teachers, the calmer you child will be during the separation process.
Talk About It
Don’t leave your child for the first time without taking to them first. Tell them about what they might do on their first day of school. Make sure they know that they will be safe with their teachers and that they will get to meet new friends. Start talking about it a week or so before hand, or longer, if the child is older, and tell them how many days until they will start. Above everything else, always sound excited and happy when you’re talking about it. Remember, the calmer you are, the calmer they will be.
Do A Drive By
Take your child to the school first, and let them see their classroom with you, if possible. Introduce them to their teachers if you can. Many preschools have systems in place for parents and children to visit the school before the year starts. If your school doesn’t, ask the administrators if it’s possible, and they might be able to accommodate you. If not, at least drive by the school and show your child where it is. If you can see into the building from the outside, take a peek. Children will be more comfortable if they have experienced the setting in one way or another before they are alone there without you.
Have a Plan
Make a plan about leaving before the first day of school and talk about that plan with your child. The plan should be short and simple. A good example is to walk all around the classroom with your child and point out some of the activities they can work on. Spend 5 minutes with your child as they get settled. Play during this time, and follow their lead. If they are hesitant to engage with anything, find a toy or book that you think your child will like, and play with it, prompting them to play with you. Include other children if they’re there. After the 5 minutes, say goodbye and tell your child when you’ll be back, and then leave.
Stick to the Plan
Whatever the plan you made was, stick to it. Consistency and predictability make a big difference to a young child. If your child is hesitant or starts to cry when you leave, ask a teacher to help you out. If they have a different policy than what I’m suggesting, make sure to do what the ask.
If your child cries, don’t linger. Staying longer when your child cries teaches them that crying is the way to get you to stay, and makes separation harder for you, your child, and the teacher. If your child cries, reassure them that you’ll come back, remind them when, and then leave anyway. The teachers are more than capable of helping a crying child, and separation becomes easier when children can trust the teachers to help them when they are upset. The teachers will call you if their separation anxiety is out of the ordinary, or if they need help.
Stay Out of Sight
If you are staying in the building during your child’s first day, don’t go back into the room unless you are asked to by a teacher or staff member. If you hear your child crying, the teachers are helping them calm down, and your child will be okay. If you return to the room, or if your child sees you in the hallway, the whole process of separation starts over, and becomes even more difficult.
Make sure you stick to your plan, leave quickly, and stay out of sight every day. You can talk with your child more about school and separation after each day at the beginning of the year, always sounding happy and excited, and focusing on the positive aspects of their day. If you can, ask the teachers what they did that day, and talk to your child about it at home.