Easing your child's separation anxiety
Easing a child's separation anxiety is probably every parent's dilemma. No matter how well we prepare ourselves and our little ones, there will be instances that can cause a child to go through separation anxieties, especially when they're starting out daycare or going to pre-school for the first time. Just like many other aspects of growing up, this too is a phase and does pass with time.
Here are some tips to help you ease the separation anxiety of your little one:
1. Understand it's a phase
I remember when my daughter first started playschool, for the first few days, she was thrilled to bits to go to playschool, and I was super happy. Later, the principal of the preschool gave me a sound advice. She said, The first few times, your daughter will be very happy to come here as it is a new place, but once it becomes a routine, she's going to go through a bit of separation anxiety. She's going to cry and wail before coming here. She may also cry at night and have night tremors. The principal also added, Be consistent, and not give in to the tears and keep bringing her daily at the set time and gradually watch things fall into place. And just as she had predicted, my daughter went through those exact phases and finally settled down into the playgroup like a pro.
2. Calm her down with a hug & kiss
A simple hug and kiss from a parent can do the trick. As shared by Indrani Ghosh, a mother to a cute 2-year-old, Honestly, separation anxiety seems near impossible to ease out. At least, that's what I've observed with Kiana. She copes with it herself once she gets more acclimatized to a new environment. All I do is hug her and kiss her and tell her that I'll be waiting right outside if she needs me. I don't know whether she understands, but gradually she calms down and "gives in" (for the lack of a better term) to the fact that school is something she has to go to.
3. Stop scaring your child
Several times, as parents were at fault too. We try to discipline a child with the mere mention of the name school. One very useful way of dealing with separation anxiety, which I came across while working at a preschool was, teachers having a session with parents who are just about to send their little ones to school. I have seen many parents before starting to send their child to school, scare him/her with the name of your teacher. If you do not behave at school, your teacher will scold you, or If you won't learn to sit correctly, your teacher and other kids will make fun of you. Etc. These are some very common statements made by parents before school starts that not only scare the child with the name of school, but also create an image of the teacher as a monstrous authority. It is thus important to counsel parents and let them know that teachers are there to calm and coax children and to make them understand that school is their second home, explains Bhumika Vikam, a Primary & a Pre-Primary Teacher and a Baby-Bonding Specialist.
4. Learn to relax first
What we feel, we pass on to our child. Unfortunately, as a parent we are always trying to do a balancing act, and we seldom feel relaxed. As Bhumika points out, Most children get their anxiety drawn from none other than their parents or caretakers. When the care taker or parent is her/himself stressed and anxious about the child's first day at school that stress passes on to the child. Children as we know are really quick at picking up emotions from their close ones and the close environment. Hence, it is important for parents to themselves stay calm and believe that everything will go good. Having a meeting or session with parents before school begins is therefore so crucial because it not only helps counsel parents, but apart from that makes them trust the school and see it as safe, along with getting familiar with the school environment.
5. Read to your child
Bhumika shares that as parents we can read out a couple of bedtime stories which are specially meant for dealing with separation anxiety. One such story is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn which is a very helpful and coaxing story. Such stories really work wonders for toddlers.
Indrani pitches in, Usually at night, I read to her books about school to help her relate to the environment. But, it's still at the trial and error stage because whenever there's a longish break, she cries quite a bit when I drop her off.
It is important to understand that separation anxiety is a phase almost every child goes through at some point in time and at various intensities. As Bhumika beautifully explains, changes are stressful for everyone and when it comes to little ones, it is very common for us to see tantrums, crying and wailing. To calm the child, and make the transition from home to school smooth, it is essential to trust the school, and even make the child build that trust slowly and gradually.
Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai and a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women's University in Mumbai. She started her career 16 years ago by writing children's books, e-learning, content management for international websites and magazines and writing lifestyle and feature articles. She's the founder of The Lifestyle Portal an e-publishing platform that focuses primarily on entrepreneur profiling, entrepreneur directory listing, workshop reviews, feature stories and more. Shes also a Certified Parent-Child Play Practitioner and a Certified Story Teller.
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