I’m Done With School – by Susan Viers
“It’s the first day of preschool for Sophia, who just turned 3 a week ago, and she and her mother, Vanessa, are walking into the school for the first time. As Vanessa opens the door Sophia grasps her mother’s hand a little tighter. They walk into Sophia’s classroom where her teacher, Ms. Lisa, greets them warmly. ….Sophia puts her backpack in her cubby and Vanessa bends down with tears in her eyes and hugs Sophia. Sophia whispers in her mother’s ear, ‘Tm ready to go home now, done with school”… Vanessa assures Sophia that she will come back after lunch to pick up Sophia. As Vanessa walks out of the classroom she hears Sophia crying, Vanessa now has tears, and is having second thoughts about sending her to preschool.” Young Children. September 2015
Sound familiar? We label this as separation anxiety and it can be a disheartening and stressful time for you and the family. But however stressful it makes you feel, hesitancy to be separated from one’s parents, is a normal response in young children that indicates the development of a healthy attachment. Most children will go through some degree of separation anxiety and it may vary from day to day. One day they may be anxious to go and another day clinging to your leg, not ever letting go. They may cry when you leave because they fear that you will be gone forever, or at the end of the day, because now they remember how they felt when you left.
Children’s temperaments not only play a role in their development, they also impact their adjustment to school, making some children more vulnerable than others.
Some children are more clingy as infants, have difficulty getting used to a regular routine, or have a hard time adapting to changes in everyday life, such as new foods or new routines. Difficulty with separation
generally emerges around 9 months of age, peaks around 12-24 months, and is usually gone by 3.
Some basic strategies teachers and families can use to ease transition anxiety include, using a “window wave” at the door and hug. That is, when leaving give a quick kiss, and hug, and cheerfully say goodbye. Sensing they are valued they will enter the room feeling safe and secure. Do not prolong your departure or come back several times, and never sneak out of the room. Special blankets or loveys can go a long way to easing the transition. That familiar object can be reassuring throughout the day and they can hug it to feel more comfortable at school. A visual strategy is to include family photographs or picture schedules as many of our teachers do in their classrooms. This helps children feel connected to their classroom and their peers.
The home to school transition can be difficult for many children; however with the use of those specific strategies, that shift can become easier. Collaborate with your child’s teacher to come up with some strategies to increase your child’s comfort level and prepare them for a successful day of learning. Just remember though that the road to adulthood is full of first separations, which become the building blocks to establishing independence. Helping your child handle separation now will make future ones, easier, and set him on the path to becoming an independent adult. So instead of your child saying ‘Tm done with school, we will be helping them to say ‘”‘ I’m down with school”