How To Help Your Child Through The Separation Process

The month of September brings about so many feelings of excitement for adults and children alike.  Simple things like the onset of fall, in addition to the newness and endless possibilities for the upcoming school year, evoke a feeling of being able to “start fresh.”  As the first two days of school have come and gone at The International Preschools, teachers and parents have seen a variety of emotions in the young children coming through our doors, ranging from excitement to uncertainty to anxiousness.  All of these sentiments are expected and reasonable…but how can we, as parents, teachers, and caregivers, help soothe the nerves of our preschoolers?

An excerpt from the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episode, “Daniel Goes To School,” where Daniel reassures his friend, Miss Elaina, that “grown-ups come back.”

At our recent IPS Parent Orientation, the topic of “separation” was a widely discussed one.  Here at The International Preschools, we recognize that each child is unique and goes through this process differently.  However, there are some points that are consistent and can be helpful both when dropping a child off at school and at home.  Here are some ideas:

  • Reiterate that school is a “happy place.”  Children can sense when a parent/caregiver is tense or nervous, and can absorb both verbal and non-verbal cues from them.  By speaking positively about the school experience in a calm, neutral voice, children will pick up that school is a place where people have fun, and not a place to be nervous about or afraid of.
  • Identify the “end point” of the day.  Children respond strongly to visual cues and routines.  At school, teachers use a visual schedule that children follow throughout the day.  At the end of each day is a picture card titled “dismissal.”  This card is there every day; everyone goes home at the end of the day and no one sleeps at school.  This way, children know (both mentally and visually) that there is an end point to the school day.  On the popular preschool show, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a simple phrase is sung that helps reassure young children:  “Grown-ups come back.”  This has helped reassure my daughter (and countless other children!) that an adult will always come back to pick them up after school is over, even when the child can’t see them during the school day.
  • Take a photo of your child at school with his/her teachers.  Hang this photo up in your home.  This helps reinforce the “school-to-home connection,” which teachers foster throughout the school day.  By seeing their teachers (“school”) in their homes, children will become familiar with their teachers and be able to think positively about the school day.
  • Allow your child to bond with his/her teachers.  Forming a strong, positive relationship early on will only allow your child to become more excited (and feel more confident) about going to school and having fun when his/her parent/caregiver is not there.
  • Never leave without saying goodbye.  While some parents/caregivers may think that this is an easy way to slip out of the classroom and avoid a tantrum or an upset child, simply put:  it isn’t.  If you sneak out, the child will lose trust in the separation process.  Be honest and say goodbye quickly, and tell your child that you are leaving and that someone will come back to pick him/her up at the end of the day.

And remember:  children go through this process at different intervals.  Some will separate right away, while others need some time…and that’s okay.  If you need more ideas or advice, feel free to contact your child’s teachers and/or the administrative team at your child’s location.  We are always here to help you!

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