Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to School - Easing Separation Anxiety

September is here and along with it a new school year! I would like to welcome all of the new students joining A Gym Tale this year in the Before & After School program as well as the Nursery School program! Likewise it is also so great to see so many familiar faces returning to the program again this year! We have lots of exciting plans for each of the programs and the teachers are eager to get back to the regular routines and students that we get to know over the course of the year.

I have had many questions on how to help a child adjust who is going to school for the first time. To begin with, separation anxiety is completely normal for a preschooler - he or she is simply aware that this is a new situation and is unsure of what is to come. There are several things as parents we can do to ease a child's anxiety.

Preparation for the start of school is important. If you are able to visit the school so your child has a picture in their mind of where they are going is a great first step. I am so excited that the majority of the children in the Nursery School program have been participating in A Gym Tale's Play & Music programs. Many of the children are familiar with myself and the environment. Now if you have not been to A Gym Tale before, that is ok too! This year we are hosting a Welcome Session where the child and the parent visit in a small group for 1 hour to explore the learning centres and for the parents to meet with me to go over the program and answer any questions. This will be a no-stress day! I want the children to become excited about what the Nursery School program has to offer, about the teachers and the other friends that they will get to know - without the worry of leaving mom or dad. At home mention some of the activities that they may be doing and answer any questions your child may have, but be sure not to make too big of a deal about going to school - sometimes that can add to a child's insecurity.

Consistency at drop off is also very helpful. If you are unsure with how your child will be at drop off time, please contact us so we can make a plan about how we will address your child's anxiety. Usually a quick drop off and exit by the parent helps the child enter the classroom. A teacher will be present to scoop up the child in order to offer comfort and get them involved in an exciting activity as soon as they are ready. Now each child is different, so let's make a plan that you are comfortable with to avoid any confusion on the first drop off day. In addition, be sure to build a regular routine with how you say goodbye - always say goodbye with words, with hugs or with a gesture. It may be tempting to sneak out of the centre, but it may only lead to mistrust once your child realizes that you have left. Help your child to realize that you will always come back.

Bringing a transitional object, such as a stuffed toy or blanket, is also acceptable and can sometimes lessen the child's fear of being left alone. It can sometimes be even more powerful to leave something of yours with the child, a bracelet for example. This gives the child a tangible reminder of the parent and that they are returning.

Also, be aware of your own anxieties about leaving your child. This can be a stressful time for the parent as well if leaving the child for the first time. Even the anxiety about how your child will react at drop off time can lead to stress. Remember children are very good at reading emotions and can sometimes become increasingly anxious if they feel your anxiety about the 'big' day. Going to Nursery School is an important step along the path in helping your child develop socially, emotionally and physically - and it so much fun along the way!

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