Separation anxiety is often one of the most asked questions I get on a tour with a parent. What happens if my child doesn’t separate easily? How do we handle it as a school? What do I do if my child is the only one crying at dropoff? What if my child doesn’t adjust?
Over the years, we have learned that the beginning of the school year is always a transition that can be difficult for both parents and children. Separation anxiety can also occur after a break from the school routine. Sometimes this is after a break from school or after just a weekend. This is normal and our teachers are prepared for whatever comes their way.
As a parent you are your child’s safest place. Your acknowledgment of their emotion and your confident and reassuring response is key to their security.
Safety, both physical and emotional, is our number one priority for your child. It helps to have a plan in place for you and your child that you have talked about before you drop your child off. Talk them through the procedure and follow through with confidence. Say to your child: “I understand you were hoping to stay at home with me today. You are feeling a little worried. You are safe and you are going to have a fun day. Today is a school day. We are going to drive to school, park the car, walk into school and go your classroom. Your teacher is going to greet us at the door. She is so glad you are in her class and she loves you and will take good care of you. You will hang up your backpack and then mommy is going to give you a big hug and say goodbye and then I am coming back to get you after your day at school. You are going to have a fun day.”
If your child senses that you are anxious or wavering on how long you are going to stay with them before you leave they will become more anxious. State your drop off plan and stick to it. This isn’t heartless – it is creating a safe and predictable routine and will encourage confidence in your child.
If your child continues to struggle separating from you, talk through some ideas with your child’s teacher and create a clear plan together from the drop off procedure. Maybe a special stuffed animal or note from you can stay at school with them. Giving your child some say over that item helps to give them control and allows them to be part of the plan for success.
Reassurance for parents
It is difficult to leave your child when they are upset. If you are concerned about how their day is going please call the office. We are always glad to go and check on your child and give you a reassuring update. Typically, children transition happily into their school day after a few minutes. We understand that your child’s emotional world has a huge impact on you as a parent. We are parents too!
We have found some other useful tips from Dr. Rene on this subject in her blog: Separation Anxiety