Whether your child is beginning daycare, preschool, or elementary school, leaving Mommy and Daddy for the first time, or for the first time of the year, is a huge event. Some children seem to be able to run off happily with a quick wave goodbye, others slowly but steadily enter the classroom. But the most challenging kids are the ones who cling, cry and resist every effort you make to convince them that everything will be okay. If you have a superglue child, here are some ideas to help make this new experience more enjoyable for all of you.
A Gradual Start
Brand new situations and schedules can induce significant anxiety in children. Children love routine and familiarity, so it is helpful to introduce the new situation gradually if you can.
As an example, if your child is heading into a brand new place, see if you can have a tour of the building ahead of time or plan a few play sessions on the playground ahead of the big first day. Drive by on your way to running errands frequently, and point out the building and talk about what wonderful things await your child there.
Keep the Schedule Consistent
Unfortunately, regression tends to happen after a weekend, or if there are three or four days at home. So, once you’ve started your weekday routine, keep those same hours seven days a week. Wake up at the same time, get dressed, and eat meals at the same time. Keeping these touchpoints the same can ease some of the up-and-downs.
Don’t set your goals too high. Expect that adjustment will happen gradually. It might take a month or two on the new schedule for your child to be settled into their new routine.
Keep communication open between you and the teachers or caregivers. Find out if there are a few friends that your child has connected with, and encourage those relationships further. Set up a few short play dates with these children. Either meet at a park or invite them to your home. Serve some tasty snacks and plan a few fun activities since young children can have difficulty navigating an entire episode of free play.
These off-campus sessions away from the school or daycare environment allow for more personal friendships to develop. This can create more security for your child when they’re back in the more formal environment.
Coordinate with Other Families
It can be helpful to coordinate drop offs with other families. If possible, arrange to walk or ride to school with another family who lives close by, or meet at the flagpole or by the front door. Having a friend to walk into the center with each day can change the dynamics of the drop off routine dramatically. It will become less about separation from you and more about meeting up with a friend and exploring the new environment together.
Other children are waving goodbye to their parents with smiles, and your child is clinging to you with tears in her eyes… This situation makes it easy for you to become flustered, but that can make matters worse. Every parent hates to see their child upset, and it is hard not to reflect that in your own emotions. However, your child desperately needs you to provide her with calm and loving reassurance. Tune out the other families and focus only on your child. You will be most helpful when you are confident and peaceful and can convey positive emotions to your child. You know that everything will be all right – and soon your child will, too.
More tips can be found in The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution.