*How to Deal with Separation Anxiety when Dropping off Little Ones!*
After all the excitement of the first days – I am sure there are quite a few of our Groovy Adventurers who may be struggling with the big transition to school! Sometimes the first few days are easy but after a few days of school, our little Adventurers realize that this is not a temporary deal and the permanence of the routine sparks anxiety and may cause them to become a little more clingy to you!
One thing I have come to realize is that you simply cannot predict how things are going to go, shy and timid children sometimes surprise us by slipping into the school routine with ease and bold, confident children who seemed to have been more than ready for school crumble with the change! This not knowing can spark anxiety in us moms!
I have had my fair share of sad goodbyes and so I ache for both Adventurers and Groovy moms who are having to be pried apart by the new teacher! It is not an easy situation for anyone involved. The sad goodbye also tends to taint the rest of our working morning (whereas within 5 minutes your Adventurer is off playing; the kicking, screaming and tears all but a distant memory!) There are some ways of making this separation a bit easier for you and your little one, and it will take strength, courage and bravery from all! Who said parenting was easy right?!
*1. Short, sweet and simple!* Try make the goodbye short and sweet. I usually choose 3 things in the routine and I explain those 3 things to my little one. For instance, “Mommy is going to come with you to pack your bag in your locker, then mommy will help you find a fun toy or a friend to play with, and lastly mommy will give you a hug and a kiss and say goodbye!” Then hard as it may be you need to be consistent and stick to your word, do not fall in to the trap of “playing one more game with me mom!” or going back for a 2nd kiss or hug – even if he is crying for one! I am sure that we all know this one in our heads and have probably dished the advise out to a fellow mom before, but head knowledge and heart knowledge is totally different. When your baby is screaming for his mommy, every motherly instinct is yelling at you to go to him and save him! This only lengthens the trauma for him and makes him feel more insecure! If he sees that you are confident enough to leave him at his new school, he understands that it is a safe place for him to be. If he senses your hesitation, he may wonder why doesn’t mommy want to leave me here?! This may cause him to cling more to you!
*2. Be Positive!* This is often easier said than done! Always speak highly of his new school and new teachers in front of your little Adventurers. Often we moms chat in the parking lot or in the school corridors and talk to other moms about how frustrated we are with this or that…remember little ears are always listening and understand more than you realize! So praise the school, teachers and staff in front of your little one, if you are positive, he will be positive about school! Mention how lucky he is to go to school, to have his friends and be allowed to play with these new toys!
*3. Consistency is key!* Children absolutely THRIVE on routine and structure. Try keep your morning routine and goodbye routine the same. Do things in the same order and in the same way. This way your little one will know what to expect and this can ease anxiety.
*4. Praise his efforts!* Reward the good mornings with verbal praise, e.g. “Mommy is so proud of you, even though you are feeling a bit scared of going to your new school, you are not giving up!” A reward sticker chart may also be helpful to motivate him to be brave! If all else fails bribery and corruption always work, give him something to look forward to when you fetch him (e.g. a small sucker or lollipop, a reward sticker or stamp etc. – you know what makes your little one tick!)
*5. Play it out!* Children often aren’t able to verbalize their anxiety, so they keep it all bottled up and this can fuel their anxiety. Use your toys to play school-school. Your Adventurers toy cars, animals, Barbies, dolls, teddies etc. can all attend a pretend school while your are playing at home with your little one. Remember to act out all different scenarios while playing, e.g. the red car says he doesn’t want to be the green car’s friend! Then try play out the various options to solve the problem! In other words what the green car could do, e.g. he could go find another friend, he could tell the red car how that makes him feel, he could ask the teacher for help finding a friend etc. There are many situations that little ones don’t always know how to handle, for instance what will I do if I need the toilet, what if a new friend grabs my toy out my hand, what if I get pushed over by another friend, what if I start to feel hungry or tired, cold or hot. This may seem simple to us but sometimes the simplest things lead to anxiety! When my eldest was having a hard time adjusting to Grade R, it turned out she was anxious about her new play ground. She found the new see-saw daunting and did not know how to tell her friends that she did not want to go on it! Once she had the tools to do that she was fine! The easy part is solving the problem, the difficult part is finding it!
*6. Story Time!* Children often connect with characters in a story! Visit the library and find some books about starting a new school. Spend time reading these kinds of stories to your little one. As loads of questions, e.g. “how do you think the little girl feels?” or “what could the little one do?” This will help your Adventurer identify what he is feeling and what he could do in similar situations!
*7. Make time concrete!* Children do not know when you will be back! 5 minutes, 2 hours or 4 hours feels the same to them! By giving them a concrete idea of the routine at school, they can track time and when you will be back to fetch them! e.g. you are going to do morning ring, then you will play a little bit inside, then you will have your snack and after have played outside and had story time, mom will be back to fetch you!
*8. Slow down in the first few weeks!* Try keep the first few weeks of school calm for your little one. Try not arrange extra play dates just yet or do too many extra activities and outings. Your little one has a lot to process with his new school day, try not add anything else to that until he has settled! I generally give my girls 2 weeks before we do play dates! But you know your little one best so read his cues!
*9. Sleep!* Your little one will be more tired in the first few weeks of a new school routine. Make sure he is getting to bed on time and having a good rest to prepare him and prevent meltdowns. If he still has his day naps, try not miss those in the first few weeks!
There are many more tips, these are just a few that I could think to share…if something is working for you or has worked for you in the past, please comment on this blog or on the post on our facebook page! Your insight may save a little Adventurer and his mom some stress and anxiety!
Good luck, stay strong and be positive, this too shall pass!