Planning for Separation

Summer is in full swing and school is probably the last thought on many children’s minds. However, it is always on mine! As I see happy children running through sprinklers and enjoying special family time, I wonder how many of them will be going to school for the first time this fall. While school may seem far away, it’s never too early to begin thinking about Separation and how your family can prepare.

Separation anxiety is completely normal and to be expected (for children and parents alike!) While this blog is mostly be about preparing your child, I would like to first address any anxiety on the part of mom and dad. Before my own first day of school, my mother had been prepared ahead of time by my new preschool teachers for a potential downpour of tears on my part. However when the time came that first day I simply turned to her, said goodbye and walked off happily. Suddenly it was my mother who was feeling the rush of tears. No one had prepared her for how hard it might be for her to say goodbye.

Since there are still a few weeks left in the summer, I encourage you to take the time to think about how you as a parent are going to handle saying goodbye. It is important to be mindful of your own feelings about your child starting school and be sure not to place any of this anxiety on them. Your children are sensitive to your emotions and if you are showing signs of doubt or distress, they will be wondering if they should be feeling the same way too. You want to be sure that when the time comes to say goodbye, you will be alright doing just that. Having several goodbyes, extra hugs, “just one more kisses” etc. can really hinder the process and cause your child to feel a higher level of anxiety.

Now on to some tips for the kids…

1. Talk with your child about the upcoming transition to school. Now is the time to start talking about school and all the kinds of things your child can expect. Give ample time for them to ask you questions and gauge their feelings about the subject.

If your school offers classroom visits, play dates, home visits or any kind of preview, take advantage. It can really help your child to be able to visualize where they will be going to school and who their teachers will be.

2. Come up with a Goodbye Ritual. Summer is a great time to come up with a plan together of how you will handle goodbyes at school. A ritual can be anything that is special to you and your child and it gives the child a sense of control and routine during what can be a stressful situation. Generally, I like to suggest a set number of hugs and/or kisses. But I’ve seen everything from a giving a little trinket to put in your pocket to elaborate handshake routines. Whatever it is be sure that you come up with it together!

3. On the first day, whatever you do, DO NOT SNEAK OUT! I know it can be really temping when you see your child having fun and smiling and you think now is the perfect time to just slip out, they wont even notice. Trust me, sooner or later they will turn to look for you as their touchstone and when they realize you are gone it will be bad; much worse than if you had gone through the routine of saying goodbye in the first place. The next day they will be much less willing to say goodbye. Start on a good foot with a reliable goodbye routine.

4. Be sure you are ready to say goodbye too.  Just to reiterate one more time….Once you say goodbye you have to be prepared to really leave! Saying goodbye several times will create tension and anxiety. I know it’s hard, your baby is going to school. But you can do it, I promise! 🙂

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