Separation Anxiety in Pre-School – How To Help Your Child Adjust.
Dealing with separation anxiety, especially when it comes to Pre-school is super tough. Read how Zainab Palla helped her child through it.
It was the last day of her sixth full week of preschool. As usual she clung to my leg at drop-off. She grabbed the end of my duppatta (stole) in her tiny little fist hoping I would stay.
Her little voice breaking my heart as she pleaded softly, “Mamma ap mujhay chor ker nai jao” (Mommy, please don’t leave me).
My heart arguing with my brain on whether to skip work and stay outside her class or not. I held her hand, gave her a kiss and told her I’ll be back as soon as it’s goodbye time.
Her teacher walked over, and crouched down. She stretched out her hand and picked her up to console and distract her. Her little voice letting out the saddest whine, my hands trying to pry her off so I could make my escape.
I walked back slowly, step by step, her death grip still latched onto my fingers. I knew she would be okay once I’m out of her sight. Peeked from the exit gate left ajar. She had stopped crying and pointed towards the trampoline.
I took a sigh of relief.
Related: Is It Too Early To Start Pre-school?
It has been almost 3 months of pre school now. The separation anxiety is gone. She happily jumps out of the car and walks towards the bright red gate. She hugs me tight and gives me a goodbye kiss. I look at her cheerfully running towards the balancing beam, hand in hand with her teacher. But these 3 months were no less than a crazy ride.
Nights filled with her emotional blackmail of not going to school the next morning and drop off time filled with crying outbursts. It has had a huge toll on me.
So how did it all change?
I’ll share some tips on how to keep your child from crying at drop off.
- I noticed my dear daughter was very smart in catching my fear. She noticed how my face would change when she’d cry. She sensed how I myself was scared to leave her at a new place. So the first step is to be calm and firm. She will every understand that there’s no point in crying every morning.
- Talk to her every night before going to bed. This makes a huge difference. Initially her responses would just be yes or no. So ask questions accordingly. Ask her was she crying because someone hurt her in school or did someone scold her? Or was she crying because she missed mamma. Did she eat lunch? Did she jump in the trampoline? Did she dance on the poems? Then explain to her how going to school is good and fun.
- Make school mornings exciting. Set a routine. Let her select her clothes and accessories. Make her favourite snacks for her lunch box. Keep her motivated. Yes she will cry during all of this too. But don’t give in. The minute she understands that crying will get me to skip school, you’re doomed.
- Keep incentives. Wow you cried less in school today we have a surprise for you at home. We did this very smartly. Daily we used to keep one incentive. Wherever we would go we would tell her we’re going to the mall because you didn’t cry in school. We’re going to buy grocery because you didn’t cry in school. We’re going to listen to your favourite music in car because you didn’t cry in school. We got a new toy.. we’re baking cookies.. we’re watching your favourite cartoon.. we’re having icecream.. Though Google suggested me not to do that as it would get the child in the habit of it but we are in the process of tapering it off and it’s going smooth uptil now.
- Give a toy along with them to school. This didn’t work much for me but it works for some children. an association with comfort can help beat separation anxiety. I gave her Barney and told her wherever you miss Mommy you can hug Barney. Just make sure it’s not her most favourite stuff toy because if something happens to it in school then that would be a whole another story.
- Talk to other mothers of the same class. We connected over a WhatsApp group which is like a support group to us. It is satisfying to know you’re not alone and there are others in the same boat.
- Be patient. Every child takes his own time settling in.
- Most importantly, keep an open communication with the teachers. Her teacher helped me the most. Daily at pick up time we would discuss her progress. Initially she used to ask me to pick her up in an hour. Gradually we increased the time.
I know it’s difficult to see our child crying but we have to understand that it’s a big change for them so there will definitely be separation anxiety. It’s only the initial first few weeks which are tough on the mother and the child. After that it’s a beautiful journey filled with laughter and memories.