With the start of the school year just around the corner, it’s not too soon to begin preparing your child for their first day of school. Some children may bravely wave good-bye and transition to their new class with ease, but others might experience trepidation. Separation anxiety can be upsetting when it occurs, but, rest assured, it is a completely normal phase of development. Personality types, learning styles, and cultural differences all contribute to the duration and intensity of this phase. The following are ten tips from experienced early childhood educators for a smooth farewell:

  1. Prepare your child the night before school by letting them know their schedule ahead of time. Be sure that they go to bed early and are well rested for an active day in class.
  2. Establish a regular schedule. Children feel safe when their routine is predictable. If your timetable permits, consider eating breakfast with your child before school to talk about and prepare for their day.
  3. Lay out clothes together the night before and allow enough time so that your child does not experience stress triggers from being rushed.
  4. Once in the classroom, help your child choose an activity, but avoid lingering. Let the teacher know when you are ready to depart.
  5. Say a brief good-bye. Never sneak out! This only exaggerates the anxiety. Remind your child that you will return to pick them up. When you return, prepare for your reunion by putting your cell phone away, so that your child will have your undivided attention.
  6. Manage your own feelings of apprehension related to separating from your little one. Children are perceptive and will pick up on your uncertainty. Keep the goal in mind and remind yourself of the purpose for leaving your child. Attending school is a healthy and natural transition that is beneficial for your child’s development. Be sure to wait until you are outside of the classroom to shed tears upon the realization that your baby is growing up so fast!
  7. Check on your child after you part ways, but be sure to stay out of sight. You may be reassured by observing them without their knowledge. Many times a student displaying a dramatic and tearful departure, adapts quickly and becomes happy and engaged once their parent is out of sight.
  8. Offer feedback to the teachers. Let them know about any strategies that have worked in the past with babysitters, family, Sunday school, etc.
  9. Encourage friendships with the other children in your child’s class. Get to know the other parents and attend play dates and school-sponsored social gatherings with your child.
  10. Request a home visit. Depending on the school, this may be included in the program. Educators who are invited into the home become more familiar and trustworthy in the eyes of a child.

Whether it’s a case of first day jitters or full blown separation anxiety, consistency and preparation will help minimize emotional stress. Be assured that this is a season that will pass with time. Soon, your child will develop autonomy and confidence that will carry them throughout their elementary and secondary school years.

Cindy Hartwig,
Preschool Director,
All Aboard Preschool