The opening day of school for the first timers or for children returning to a new classroom in the ‘old’ school can be an anxious experience both for them, and their parents. Some children look forward to the first day of school with excitement however quite a few of them go through anxiety of being in a new environment or among new group of people.
Some of the symptoms of separation anxiety may be crying, clinginess, tantrums and at times regressed behavior for the first timers as well for the returning children. Parents need not worry, as this is a normal part of child development. In some cases there may be children who have a great first week but the anxiety sets in the second week or even after a month.
These are a few suggestions to cope with separation anxiety when you drop your child off at school
- Be sure and have control of your emotions as children can sense your nervousness and discomfort. This may make them feel unsure of what may come up
- Get to know the staff and teachers at school if you haven’t already before school reopened
- It is a good idea to get your child to school before it reopens. Let your child explore the school in your presence
- Keep your goodbyes short and sweet so that your child knows what to expect but doesn’t prolong your departure. A ‘crisp’ goodbye with a hug and kiss works well. It does not help to linger on after that as the child senses your apprehension about leaving. When you pick him up at the end of the day, reinforce the idea that you came back, just like you said you would. This way, each day’s drop-off won’t feel like you’re both starting with tears and upsetting goodbyes all over again.
- Start and follow a routine at home before the child begins a routine at school. Arrange the backpack, clothes, shoes and socks along with your child the previous night. Wake up a little before your child does so that you have enough time for yourself.
- It may be tempting to sneak out the moment your child is distracted but this can cause stress for your child later in the day. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and normalize her worries. You need to let her know when you are leaving and assure her that you will be back soon. This way she will learn to trust you and the teachers. Trust the teacher and trust yourself; have confidence that you made the best decision and chose the best preschool for your child.
- Avoid comparing your child to other children as they all express anxiety as different points during their day at school. All children eventually outgrow separation anxiety. A complete and successful transition into school sometimes can take months, especially if there are breaks from school or changes happening at home.
- Being consistent is key when it comes to making preschool as part of your child’s routine. Many moms may see their child have a bad first reaction to preschool and immediately decide to pull him out of the classroom. It is important to give your child an opportunity to learn how to work through negative feelings and pulling them out may set a precedent of not having to face problems
The preschool years provide a great foundation for children and they have a lot of fun during this first school experience. Once you get over that first hurdle of saying goodbye, you will see your child grow and learn in leaps and bounds.