Every child is different. Some will cry and cling to you like a barnacle on the bottom of a boat. Others will try valiantly to hold it together and manage a trembling lip. Still others like my daughter, will simply wave at the door, give you a Colgate smile and skip away into oblivion. She didn’t even want me to walk in with her! I was the one crying! I think Kelli was ready for kindergarten because I had hauled her to the “everything’s” of both her older brothers: Open House, Class Parties, 1st days! She WANTED to go and couldn’t wait! She KNEW what to expect. She was EXCITED. Herein lies several big keys to get rid of separation anxiety before it can rear its ugly head.
Get Rid Of The Fear Of The Unknown:
- I’m not sure who said it, but I tend to agree that the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear. If you’re a woman and reading this, remember when you were pregnant? Do you remember that one of your biggest fears was delivery? You didn’t know what to expect, because you hadn’t experienced it before. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” is such a popular book. We need to know, because it helps get rid of your fears. It’s your duty as a parent to get rid of the heebie- jeebies for your child. How do you do that?
- If there is an Open House you NEED to go. Schedule your vacation at a different time. There is nothing more important than going to the Open House. Speaking as a teacher, I spend a zillion hours getting everything ready for your child and making things extra special for them. They really miss out if you don’t attend. The biggest thing they will be missing is a chance to get rid of any fears they have. They especially need to meet the teacher and see their room. This may not be a “big deal” to you, but trust me; it’s a really big deal to a little kid. Making it a priority in your life also shows them that what is happening in their world is very important to you. This builds their self-esteem and helps them realize that school is important.
- Let them know even before Open House what goes on at school. I did this by taking my children to events that were held at school. You can also share positive experiences that you had as a child. “I just loved kindergarten. We had a class pet. I enjoyed painting at the easel and playing with Play-Dough and going on fieldtrips. I wonder if you’ll get to do those things too. We should ask your teacher when we see them.”
- There are some wonderful First Day Of School/Separation Anxiety books on the market. Go to the library, and read several. I love: I Like School, The Good-Bye Book, The Kissing Hand, First Day Jitters, Llama Llama Misses Mama, The Night Before Kindergarten.
- Children are no different than adults. Put yourself in their place. Do you like going to events where you don’t know anyone, where you have to fill out and slap on a “Hello my name is tag?” Do a little research on your child’s behalf. See if the neighbor’s children, or kids up the street, or the children in his Sunday school class, are going to be in his class and then call up the parent and make a Play Date. If there is some sort of summer recreational activity going on in your area, it’s a great place to meet other children before school starts. Making a new friend before hand, so they can share the first day experience with, gives them something to look forward to. “Oh look Stevie! There’s Jason.” Is a great distraction tool.
- After they’ve been in school awhile, ask who their new friends are and make after school or Saturday Play Dates with them.
- Practice makes perfect so why not practice separating? Arrange Play Dates with friends.. Ask a grand parent to take your child for a few hours. Hire a sitter for an hour so that you can run errands instead of taking your child with you everywhere you go.
- Don’t tell your child “I’ll be right back.” To them that’s minutes. They don’t have a real concept of time. “I’ll be back when the hands on the clock look like this picture.” Then draw it for them and make sure you are not late. Or if they have a children’s play clock set the hands to that time.
Ask the right questions
- Don’t plant seeds of doubt by asking them leading questions like: “Are you worried about school?” “Are you worried about leaving mommy” You just opened a can of worms. Your child might not have had a care in the world and now you gave them something to think about, mull over and start to worry about.
- Instead, water a garden of excitement! “Wow! I bet you’re excited to start school and make new friends.”
- It’s good to ask them if they have any questions. You’d be surprised that some of their top questions involve practical things that they have fears about like: What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I forget to get off the bus? What if nobody likes me? You can then address these and dispel their fears.
- How else do you get them excited? There’s nothing like a trip to the mall and an adventure in shopping to add excitement. Bring them along when you go looking for school supplies, a backpack and school clothes. Give them a say in choices.
- Let them help pack their backpack the night before school. Let them choose a special snack for their lunch box, and allow them to help you make their lunch. Show them the options of what they can wear to school. I limited this to 2 choices with NO mind changing in the morning. Then lay everything out for the next day.
- Having everything ready will make for a great morning and ease tension and anxiety. Allow for extra time so things run smoothly. If you’re calm, your child will be calm. Don’t forget the camera.
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