Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Separation Anxiety.. What to do?

Leaving Mammy can be hard!! Especially if you spend all your time with mammy and suddenly, you ar ebeing asked to stay in a new environmnt with complete strangers and so many little faces !! So managing separatin anxiety can be tough for some kids and for some parents too!! Parents often drop off their little one at preschool with a pit in their stomach, knowing what's coming next:  a fit, kicking, screaming and crying, not wanting  to be left behind. Parents know this won't go on forever, but it sure feels like it lasts a lifetime.
So what do we do? I always tell parents that the simplest of the steps is to say good bye, which is also the hardest to do. Parents should give their child a hug and a kiss, tell her/him they'll be back soon and then walk out the door. There should be no delay, no more "one more minute," no lingering, hoping that she/he 'll miraculously start smiling and laughing, happy to go and play with her/his preschool chums. But I understand that this can be way TOO hard for some parents to do. So sometimes, we have to employ different strategies. Parents are always welcome to stay with their little ones at the beginning, for an hour, or even a full session if necessary. This helps the child to get used to his/her new environment and get to know his/her teachers. After a while, I usually suggest that it is time to be firmer and to stay for only a few minutes. Parents must explain the child  that they are now leaving but will be back very soon. There will be tears. Children can be stubborned and think that if crying worked in the past, it will work again. At that stage, it is important to stick to your guns.(Easier said than done, I know.... but I have been there myself and believe me, I know what I am talking about).
Some parents prefer to sneak out when the child is engrossed in an activity. It is really up to every individual. The reality is, that within minutes of their parents' exit, most kids happily settle down and forget what all the fuss was about. And within days (sometimes weeks), the tearful goodbyes end. The key to success is PATIENCE... This might take weeks but the child will eventually accept the new routine. We currently have a mam who has to stay with her little one during the whole session in the morning. Progress is slow as the child refuses to do anything if her mam is not right beside her. She keeps a VERY close eye on her mother and at the moment, sneaking out is not an option. But with a bit  more time, the child will settle down. Mam might have to eventually be a bit tougher and just leave (kids are so clever and know that tears DO break mammies' hearts!!). But I have no doubt that she will settle down... It is harder for some and all we can give them is lots of love, attention and patience.
However, last year I bought a book called The kissing hand by Audrey Penn. It is a very cute story about a Racoon who doesn't want to leave his mam to go to school. This year, I read the book again and created a new activity which I thought could help separation anxiety: the children made a key ring carrying 2 of their hand prints: one handprint made out of paint and one cut out of patterned paper. I laminated both, cut them out, punched a hole in them and tied them together to a key ring. I told the children that they could get their mams to kiss the handprints before coming to preschool. This way, they carry their mammies' love with them wherever they go. They can put the key ring on their belt or on their school bag. I also wrote the story on a Word document and distributed it to parents. This way, they can share the story with their kids and help them settle down. Parents seem to respond very well to the idea of the Kissing Hand and the children love telling us how many kisses their mam or dad gave them to bring to school.

1 comment:

  1. That is a really sweet idea! My son is only 2 but I can already anticipate that he'll have a hard time when we start school.


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