Finding childcare and/or preschool that fits your needs is a relief. That relief, however, is generally short lived as it quickly comes time to take your child for the first time. More accurately, it comes time to say goodbye to your child for the first time. This emotionally volatile, stomach-turning moment is some painful for everyone involved. Many preschool teachers and childcare providers would probably argue that the children are more resilient than their parents… so here are a few tips that will help you manage the separation anxiety on both sides and make those first couple of weeks less stressful.
1. Prepare your child. Start talking to your child several weeks out about the changes that will take place. In language they can understand and make their own, talk through what the new day will look like.
2. Create excitement. As you talk to her, talk about the exciting things she will get to do in her new classroom or with her new friends.
3. Acknowledge it may be scary or sad. Be upbeat but don’t sugar coat the experience. Let him know he may be sad or get a bit scared and that is okay. Talk to him about what he can do if he feels like this. For younger children this is hard but it helps to focus on soothing activities or objects that will help him adjust.
4. Establish a routine. This is incredibly important. Children need structure and predictability especially in the face of change. Develop your own separation routine with your child. Let them help create the routine, making it theirs. It might be three hugs and 4 kisses. Or, it may be a story then waving goodbye from the window. Whatever it is, create it and stick to it.
5. Plan to stick around. The first week is usually the hardest. Schedule accordingly. Help your child ease into their new environment with you around as a safety net. Encourage him to explore more independently, gradually becoming more confident. This will help as you shorten your ‘drop off’ time
6. Find a goodbye buddy. Every preschool or childcare is different but if possible make a separation buddy. Talk with the teachers/staff members and determine what will work best for your schedule and who your child is naturally bonding with. Ideally, this will be part of your routine giving your child a sense of stability and security as you depart.
7. NEVER sneak away. While it may be tempting to slip away quietly while she is engaged in her new surroundings, you are only fanning any anxiety she may have. Mommy or Daddy disappearing is not a concept you want her to try to make sense of. Again, create your routine and stick to it.
8. Show interest in their day. Give your child a fun and open way to show you the things they did while you were away. This helps them know even though you are not their you still care and are thinking about them. It also makes finishing the day exciting and fun for them.