Starting preschool should be a time of immense joy and anticipation as your little child will be beginning school for the first time, forging meaningful relationships with teachers and classmates. However, this could prove a challenging time for both you and your child, with some toddlers even developing separation anxiety. Nonetheless, give your child a boost of courage, as you tread the positive path of having confidence in him. As the saying goes, “70% of success is about turning up”. So go ahead, let your toddler take the first steps to education and lifelong learning.
Check out our five tips for effectively easing your child’s preschool separation anxiety.
1. Attachment Theory
Quite the opposite of separation anxiety is “Attachment Theory”, and according to world-renowned psychologist John Bowlby, children who form a secure attachment with their parents at an early age have the following characteristics in common, among others:
- Higher self-esteem
- Increased ability to manage their impulses
- Increased ability to cope with difficulties
- Positive relationships with parents and other care-givers – and with authority figures
Such kids are less disruptive, less aggressive and more mature. They are better able to concentrate, and therefore learn more effectively and more successfully.
These are all vital aspects inculcated in a toddler who will prove to be a Champion at the start of school, as well as beyond. So what’s their secret?
Bowlby’s extensive research reveals that the best way to achieve a strong attachment with a child is through “bonding experiences”. The acts of holding, rocking, singing, feeding, gazing, kissing and other nurturing behavior involved in caring for infants and young children are all bonding experiences.
In terms of “how much bonding is enough”, authors Brian Caswell and David Chiem says in Talking with the Sky that “different children require different amounts of bonding time, and besides, the quality of the experience is rarely time-related”. They add that precious moments occurring “every half-an-hour a day will make a world of difference to your child, and to you.”
If you want to ease separation anxiety in your child when school starts, start those bonding moments now!
2. Communicate with the Teacher
The central figures in school are certainly the teachers. If you missed MindChamps’ orientation, fret not. You can still get to know your child’s teacher, drawing her attention to your child’s personality and other important information that she should know about. For instance, if your child had recently been ill, inform the teacher so that she can understand your child’s bouts of discomfort or challenges in acclimatising to the new environment.
3. Be Positive About the Time When Your Toddler Gets Home
Perhaps on a given day, the time that you dropped off your kid at preschool coincided with your busy schedule and the episode of separation anxiety, causing some words intended for good to come out the wrong way. For example, when you mean to say, “Don’t worry, it’s all okay. Your teacher and friends will be with you, and Mum will pick you up at the end of the day.” But somehow, at the spur of the moment, you say, “Don’t worry, it’s okay. Think about what a fine time you’ll have at home when Mum picks you up,” in a matter-of-factly tone.
If communication had been unclear, and your toddler is now having separation anxiety with a meltdown, reassure your child immediately.
Time spent at home is meant to be positive and fun, a time for the whole family.
Thus, when referring to time spent at home, keep conversations about it positive, even more so when everything seems to haphazardly happen at once. Rise above it, and set a role model for your child.
4. Don’t Deliberately Leave without Saying Goodbye
Now you see Mum, now you don’t. This may sound a little amusing, but not to your child. She may be shocked at the sudden disappearance of Mum, and separation anxiety is sure to set in. Instead, find a special way to say goodbye to your child, a method that is fun or even better, let her think of one, like “It’s never goodbye but see you later!”
Once she’s done that, let her enjoy the fun yet engaging activities, and that’s a cue for you to leave.
5. Prepare for the Second Week
If the first of school turns out splendid, without any signs of separation anxiety, don’t let your guard down the second week.
As your child is still very young, and small, there is the possibility of separation anxiety setting in even after school has started for a few weeks.
Ease your child out of it with the points mentioned above, and remember that “young people are not built as adults to cope with stress, because the pre-frontal cortex of their brain is still developing. They are more likely to respond with their ‘unthinking’ emotions than with logical faculties when challenges arise,” say authors David Chiem and Brian Caswell in The Art of Communicating with Your Child.