Every child feels anxious when it’s time to be away from Mom and Dad. It’s important to remember that every stage of your child’s development contains challenges, including natural fears and anxieties, and separation anxiety is just another part of growing up. Watching your child cry and scream as you leave them at school is always heart wrenching for a parent, but by following a few simple guidelines you can help ease your child’s fears and hopefully some of your own as well.
Prepare your child in advance. Don’t wait until the first day to spring the goodbye, but don’t constantly remind your child of the approaching separation either, as this may make you both more nervous. Remember that children pick up easily on your feelings.
Keep goodbyes short and sweet. In doing so, you convey the message that you have confidence in your child’s ability to handle the situation. It doesn‘t have to be a quick kiss and a dash out, but don’t hover around either. Children may cry for a few minutes, but usually, as soon as you’re gone, they get over it. For many children, a loving goodbye routine helps to ease the anxiety.
Familiarize yourself and your child with the new environment and the people in it. Learn the names of the teachers, your child’s classmates, and the routine. Then you and your child can talk about what to expect. Later on, with older children, you can invite classmates over so your child can build strong friendships. Allow your child his/her own natural fears, but try to lesson those fears by ensuring friendly and familiar faces surround your child.
Involve the teachers. You need someone on the other end who will greet your child and ease the transition. Teachers can’t bond properly with your child, if you are still at school. Give the teachers time and space to gain your child’s trust. Don’t discuss your child’s or your anxiety with his/her teacher in front of him/her. Save conversations and questions for the end of the day, phone, or schedule a conference time.
Trust in your child’s ability to adjust. New routines are difficult for both children and adults. When children begin school, they may express their anxiety by being irritable, whining, wetting their pants, or clinging to you. Stay calm and don’t add to their anxiety by getting upset. Keep an upbeat attitude and give your child the necessary time and tools to adjust.
Don’t be surprised if anxiety continues to re-occur or increase after holidays or sick days. Refusal to go to school often re-occurs following an extended period away from school. It also may follow a stressful occurrence, such as the death of a pet or relative, a change in family arrangements, a change in schools or a move to a new neighbourhood.
Remember that separation anxiety means that a strong and loving bond exists between you and your child. It is healthy and normal for children to develop attachments to the adults in their lives, and to feel anxious or insecure when those adults are not nearby. Remember, with the right approach, you can help ease all the growing-up transitions your child will encounter.
Here’s to an exciting first week of school!
By The teachers of Hout Bay Montessori