Please! Don't leave me there! I hate it! I don't want to stay there without you!
Can you stay with me? Can daddy stay with me?
These are only a few of the statements we hear from our children on their first day at kindergarten or pre-school. Topped with lots of tears, irregular breathing or even screams. These incidents are witnessed by teachers and parents in the entire world as children find it terrifying to stay without parental supervision.
On the other side, parents as well experience a hard time leaving their children with tears in their eyes. As for the teachers, there is no doubt that they can find it upsetting too.
What is separation anxiety?
As all kids are different, their reactions can vary from tearful or clingy to anger and tantrums. A child can experience physical and emotional distress from staying away from his family, even for a short period of time. He could feel anguished which is not uncommon. Is the fear of being left alone that triggers the anxiety in children.
How can one deal with separation anxiety?
Here are some suggestions that might help you navigate the emotions:
Be pro-active. Discuss with your child about what's going to happen. Prepare your child for it. Go visit the building before school starts. Get your child to know his teacher and the institution's premises. Talk to your child about what to expect. Describe to him how a regular school day will go. Aways mention that you will come back to pick him up at the end of the classes.
Don't cave in! Reinforce the idea that he will be alright even you will not be present. If you convey a positive attitude and divert their attention towards some activity they enjoy, they will settle into the environment faster.
Never leave without notice! Before leaving, make sure your child understood you will leave. Ensure he is settled in and that he knows what to expect. Remind him you will return a few hours later.
Establish a good bye routine. Performing a repetitive action each day creates a routine which can ease the transition. You can try to kiss him, hug him, wave at him while saying you love him. This routine has the ability to calm down the child. It also has a positive effect on parents!
Praise your child's good behaviour! By encouraging him for his brave behaviour, and reminding him how he managed to stay without you, you make it easier and easier for him to handle his feelings and emotions.
Sell the fun stuff! Turn the school related conversation into something positive, something to look forward to! Contact the teacher and learn more about the fun activities she has in store for the little ones (finger painting, field trips, pyjama day, etc.)
Ensure your child is rested! Make sure the child gets enough hours of sleep (11 hours for pre-schoolers / 8 to 12 hours for kindergartners and 1st graders/ 8 to 10 hours for young grade school children)! If your child is cranky it will not be easy to leave!
Leave a piece of you behind! Suggest to your child to take at school his favourite soft-toy or a small item that can give him the additional security he needs. he can find it comforting while he is getting used to the new environment.
Crying will be done faster than you think! Generally, most of the kids stop crying in less than 10 to 15 minutes after the parent's leave. Give your child two weeks to adjust to the new routine.
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