After a year-plus of distance learning, Lane County children are re-entering the classroom. For some, it’s their first time away from home. Whether your child is entering kindergarten for the first time or going into elementary school, children of all ages are likely to experience separation anxiety from their caregivers as they transition into a new routine. Children also may be anxious about meeting new friends, adjusting to a new teacher, and in general getting used to their new routine. Going from being home the last year and a half to returning to or starting school takes lots of energy, physically and emotionally.
As a parent, although you are probably looking forward to a few hours without your children, you also might have your own separation anxiety. It will be an adjustment for you to have your children away from you during the day. But there are some beneficial things you can do to help smooth the transition for both of you.
Preventing Separation Anxiety
Prep your child ahead of time
Don’t wait until Monday morning to spring on your kindergartener that it’s a “school day!” Talk about it with your child ahead of time when the opportunity presents itself. A child’s anxiety can be reduced by knowing what to expect.
- Have your child pick out their “school clothes for tomorrow”
- Pick out after-school snacks with you at the grocery store
- Remind your child that they need to “go to bed early because tomorrow is a school day”
- Talk about what is coming up in the week: any special plans or activities?
If your child is a visual learner, consider having a calendar that shows which days are school days and which are no-school days. Use a magnet, sticker, or item of your child’s choice to move along the days of the week.
Keep mornings smooth and unrushed
Feeling rushed can kick anyone’s anxiety into high gear. But children especially can feel overwhelmed when we rush them out the door in the morning. When possible, try to keep your morning routines smooth and unrushed so your child can feel calm as they head off to school.
Doing some of these things the night before can help mornings feel less chaotic:
- Lay out your child’s clothes for the morning
- Prep breakfast the night before, i.e. pour the cereal in the bowl and set it at the table
- Put backpacks, jackets, and shoes by the door
- Sign any papers that need to go back to the school and place them in your child’s backpack
- Have a specific place to put things that need to go out the door in the morning
- Pack your child’s lunchbox with just the dry goods, or put it in the refrigerator to be ready to grab in the morning
Keep school drop-off simple
It can be hard to leave your child at school when they are upset and clinging to you, but a loving, simple “hug and goodbye” allows your child, with the help of their teacher, to find what helps calm them. When it is time to leave, remind your child where you are going and when you will return. You are helping your child build resilience by giving them the opportunity to work through hard feelings and then come out okay. At the end of the day let them know how proud they can be of themselves for adjusting so well to being at their new school.
Try to link the time of your return with something your child will understand — “Lamar, I will pick you up from school after your class has finished story time.”
Spend quality time together
During the next few weeks as your child adjusts to being at school, he may need extra support and attention from you at home. Make time after school or when you return to home to check in with your child about their day; talk about what went well or what was fun at school; and find a special activity you can do together like read some books, make an after-school snack, go to the park. They may need some time to release some of their energy physically at the end of the day, so tossing the ball around or playing tag may be in order. By spending fun time together, you are reinforcing the bond you have together, building your positive relationship. A little one-on-one time with you will go a long way in helping your child feel safe and connected even when they are away from you at school.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).
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