LEARNING TO LET GO: HOW TO MANAGE SEPARATION ANXIETY
As a parent, you’re basically attached to your child at the hip. You’ve been together from the day they were born through to those early milestones and beyond. And despite some days spent apart – whether you headed back to work or sent them off for a weekend with the grandparents – there’s something very different about being in a totally new environment like early learning.
You might have spent weeks or even months preparing your child for this new transition, but on the day you wave goodbye at the gates, separation anxiety can hit hard – both for your child, and you as their parent. Here’s how you can prepare for the big day and manage your emotions.
CREATE YOUR OWN PERSONAL ‘GOODBYE RITUALS’
Children thrive on routine, so even before they start their first day at childcare or preschool, start developing goodbye rituals in preparation. Tell your little one that in a few weeks’ time they’ll be meeting lots of new friends and that you’ll have to say goodbye at 8.30am. Then, every morning at 8.30am, practise some ‘rehearsal’ farewells so they get used to the feeling.
This will not only comfort your child on their first day away from you, but it will provide you with a sense of relief as well, and give you plenty of time to mentally prepare for the big day. Your ritual could be anything you like! Maybe a fun game of patty cake, a secret handshake, or a rhyming goodbye song that makes them laugh. The choices are endless!
FEELING ANXIOUS? TAKE SOME TIME AWAY IN PRIVATE
Kids have something of a superpower when it comes to reading our emotions – they always seem to know if we’re upset or anxious! The problem is that if you are feeling worried, then they may start to become worried as well.
If you are dropping your child off at childcare with tears in your eyes, you can’t expect them to be happy about it. So stay strong for them, and if you need to have a little cry then wait until they are safely inside the building. Trust us – it gets easier with each passing day, especially when you see the beaming smile on your child’s face when you pick them up in the afternoon!
TRUST IN YOUR CHILD’S OWN EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE
Kids love to explore and learn new things, but it’s natural that they will always latch onto us as their parents for comfort and protection. That means new environments like childcare and preschool can be scary at first.
It might take a day or two for them to feel totally comfortable, but trust that they will quickly adjust to their ‘new normal’. Have faith that your child has the emotional confidence to settle into things over time, and support them every day by asking them about the fun things they did and what they learnt. This will not only help your child associate learning with fun, but it will also put your mind at ease that they are in the best environment to grow.
GET TO KNOW THE CENTRE AND THE CAREGIVERS
You probably spent a long time doing research into the right early learning centre for your child. After all, it’s where they will be spending a number of hours everyday learning and playing with other kids.
Getting to know the centre and the caregivers beforehand is a great way to manage your own separation anxiety. You’ll get to see how the centre works, what the educators are like, what type of activities go on during the day, and much more. Once you know what your child will be doing while you are apart from each other, you can trust that they will be happy and healthy until it’s time to pick them up!
Even if you’re looking forward to the freedom of sending your child to early learning, it’s completely natural to feel some separation anxiety. We hope these tips will help you overcome any worries and that you find a centre that understands the importance of happy and healthy children.