Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25
Mikey entered kindergarten kicking and screaming. His mother didn’t know what more to do except drag his stiff, reluctant, five-year-old body behind her like he was drafting on an imaginary skateboard.
I’d been brave up until the moment his blood curdling cries echoed through the halls of Samuel Huntington Elementary School and into Miss Kane’s classroom. Once Mikey arrived, my courage slipped through my quivering lips as I held on tight to my mother’s skirt.
Enter, Miss Kane–the sweetest, most loving teacher I’d ever known. She knew just how to calm our fears with reassuring kindness and creatively distract us long enough for our parents to slip away without notice. Soon enough, fully immersed in one of the play stations, we’d made new friends and our anxiety was long forgotten…at least until the next day.
Much older now, I realize easing separation anxiety with little ones isn’t formulaic. Each child owns a different personality and it takes time to learn what works. However, from experience as a parent, day care provider, preschool teacher and grandparent, I’ve learned several general guidelines that help ease children’s anxiety:
- Pray specifically for and with your child–that God would ease their fears and give them joy and protection
- Visit the classroom, day care, etc. with your child prior to the first day
- Involve your child in “first day” preparations (packing their lunch, choosing a special outfit, packing a special “comfort” toy)
- Make drop off quick. Lingering only causes more anxiety in them and you
- Reassure your child about your return and leave them with a kind word
- Teachers/caregivers should greet every child with joy, compassion and kindness
- Teachers/caregivers should offer multiple activities to help distract children and ease them into healthy socialization with peers
- Parents, be consistent with routines and always return on time
Years ago, while caring for my then, three-year-old great-niece, I realized separation anxiety does not dissipate simply because they are familiar with the caregiver. It helps, but it’s not the issue. The issue is, they fear separation from the parent.
Implementing the above guidelines by trial and error and simply intuition as a parent and experienced caregiver, I wrote Auntie’s House Halo Publishing, 2009). This picture book, (pre-k through first grade), walks the young reader through a typical day a little girl spends with her auntie while Mommy works. It addresses separation anxiety in a positive manner, reassuring her that Mommy always returns at day’s end.
Let’s help one another out. Would you like to share your first-day stories or concerns below? We’d love to pray with you and for you and your children.
Braving the first day,
Featured Image by-Staff-Sgt-Cody-Harding_MorningCalmWeekly-Newspapers_flicr.com_6914493023_104f8b288b_z.jpg