We all have heard about separation anxiety at drop-off. Some people have experienced it first hand. Separation anxiety is a normal stage in child development, often ending at the age of two. However, it doesn’t make it easy. This anxiety can make drop-off become stressful for the child, parent, and staff. It is important to help your child learn to cope with separation so they can have a healthy and secure attachment with their parental figure. So, how do we reduce separation anxiety at drop-off?
Signs of Separation Anxiety
Separation Anxiety is defined as excessive fear or worries about separation from home or an attachment figure. This anxiety starts developing in infants, who fear that their attachment figure will not return once they are out of sight. There are obvious signs that show that your child is suffering from separation anxiety. These symptoms include:
- Hiding behind or clinging to a parent
- Shyness or mistrust of the teacher
- Psychosomatic Symptoms (headaches, stomach aches, vomiting)
Separation anxiety tends to disappear when children by two years old. Toddlers begin to develop a secure attachment with their parents, knowing that their guardians will return even if they are out of sight. However, if children do not learn to cope with this separation, it can develop into an anxiety disorder. So, what are some steps you can take to ease this separation at drop-offs?
Quick Tips for Drop-Off
Tip # 1 PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE
Kids are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. Changing the routine can result in a major meltdown! Consider preparing for the morning as a part of your evening routine. By identifying areas of trouble or things that slow down the morning routine you can get ahead of the problem the night before.
Tip #2: TALK ABOUT IT
Communicate ahead of time what drop-off will be like in the morning, but keep it simple and uplifting. Talk to them about pickup as well. If their pickup-person varies let them know and give them a rough time of days such as after nap or lunchtime.
Tip #3: CREATE A FUN GOODBYE ROUTINE
Playing funny face games, saying silly sentences, or goofing around a little before you go can often help to ease your child’s separation anxiety by making the moments before you walk away uplifting and positive.
Tip #4: CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS
Kids feed off our emotions and often act in lieu of how we act or feel. If you show any signs of stress or discomfort at drop-off, your child will begin to associate you leaving with negativity. Remain positive and happy, reminding them that they are at a fun place with lots of friends and that you’ll see them later. This will create the sense that everything is alright, even if your child is stressed out anyway.
Tip #5: DON’T LINGER
Stick to the routine and don’t linger. If your child gets the impression that you might stay, your eventual absence will be even more difficult for them to handle. Please also mind that your separation anxiety could be causing your child’s. Maintaining a quick and consistent goodbye is the best way to help your child adapt to school life.
Dealing with Separation Anxiety at Drop Off
So, how can we make the already difficult drop-off easier? First of all, please know that kids, just like adults, have good days and bad days. Sometimes they won’t wake up in the mood for school, which is totally normal. It doesn’t necessarily mean something bad is going on. We encourage you to ask your child why they don’t want to go to school, but not to dwell on it. Sometimes their reason will be something as simple as they feel like watching TV, and other times they won’t have a reason at all.
Kids also play off of our emotions, so make sure you are responding and reacting to their emotions mindfully. For example, if you reward your child’s reluctance to attend school with attention and affection, they will likely do it again the next day. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider your child’s worries. If they are communicating a reason that is concerning, talk with your child’s teacher or a director.