Getting a Hold on Your Child’s Separation Anxiety at School

11/09/2018

For a toddler, starting a new school can be stressful, and often this stress manifests itself as separation anxiety.  And as parents, starting off your day leaving your child crying at their school tends to tug on our heart strings.

So, in an effort to nip separation anxiety in the bum, we researched some of what has worked in our school and some of what doesn’t work in our school.

 

What is a Normal Amount of Separation Anxiety?

According to webmd.com, separation anxiety is normal in children aged eight (8) months to fourteen (14) months old especially when they are getting used to new places and environments.  This stage is characterized by clinginess, crying and even the odd tantrum or two.  Keep in mind that separation anxiety is not limited to infants and toddlers; it can also go up to children aged six and seven years old, though normally the level of severity has decreased by this point.

Separation anxiety is especially common when the child has rarely, if ever, left their parents.  They go from staying with at least one parent or grandparent 24 hours a day to suddenly being thrown into a school with a ton of kids, no parental figure, and having to spend anywhere from a couple hours up to the entire working day in this new environment.  Of course they are going to have a little anxiety!  Especially when they have become accustomed to their own schedule.

There are other children who are very independent and have no issue when their parents leave them.  They even wave goodbye to their parents on their first day of school!  The point is this:  each child is different and has different needs and techniques for dealing with new environments.  One key that can support you in acclimating your child to a new school environment is to figure out what works best for you AND for them. 

 

 

How Much Is TOO Much Anxiety?

Too much separation anxiety is a bit different from the normal amount of separation anxiety that many children experience.  In a separate article by webmd (which can be found here): A five-minute tantrum can seem like a million years to a parent. But kids who consistently have tantrums that last more than 25 minutes may have underlying problems.

Keep in mind that tantrums are a normal part of child behaviour.   But when this behaviour is severe, it could be that the child has had this behaviour reinforced by parents.  A parent may give a child whatever they want just to have them stop crying.  If a parent, teacher or grandparent does this consistently, the child learns that in order to get what they want they must cry and make a scene.  These sorts of episodes would be expected in children and would be quite common.  However, if the child is not used to being given whatever they want simply because they cry and they are demonstrating this behaviour over weeks and months, then professional attention should be sought as it could be a root to a deeper issue such as trauma.

Keep in mind that overprotective parents can also foster more separation anxiety in a child especially if that child already has anxiety leaving the parent.  Your child will tend to mirror your emotions.  For example, if a parent shows emotional difficulty leaving their child at school, for example crying, going back to hold the child, etc., this behaviour may foster more tantrums out of that child.  If they see mommy and daddy freaking out, they assume there is something horribly wrong.  Instead, go about your day as if this is the most normal thing in the world.

 

 

How To Ease A Child’s Separation Anxiety?

Many parents believe their child is too young to understand what is happening and I assure you that this isn’t the case.

 

  • Set them up for success.

If you remind them daily that they are going to school or starting at a new daycare centre, eventually (if not immediately) they will understand what is going on.  They may not like it, but communication has a tendency to help children prepare for the inevitable.

 

  • Do not feed the fear.

It is normal for children to be afraid to leave you or vice versa, but you don’t have to fan the flames of fear by reacting or by reattaching yourself to them.    Sometimes the best thing is to simply say goodbye and walk away.  Other times it may be appropriate for you to say to them, “OK, mommy is going to stay for five more minutes and then I have to go.”  Which technique you use is up to you but do your best not to react when your child is crying.

 

  • Perfect practice makes perfect!

If your child has never left you before and you are starting them out in a new playschool, preschool or daycare centre, start practicing leaving them for a few minutes every day (supervised of course).  Leave them with a friend or family member, tell them goodbye and walk out the door preferably where they cannot see you, wait a few minutes and then come back in.  Don’t over exaggerate the hellos or goodbyes; if you make it a big deal they will too.

 

  • Give them a comfort item to keep with them when you leave.

There is a little girl in the Little Human Scholars playschool who, though she has been with us for some time, insists on keeping her ‘hanky’ close by especially in the morning.  Her parents often drop her off shortly after waking her and her hanky is her little comfort item.  This helps her to wake up and adjust to the school setting.  After about 15 to 20 minutes, she puts her hanky in her bag and goes about the day effortlessly.  If your child is experiencing separation anxiety, it may be good to give them a comfort item to support them in adjusting to their new settings, or to simply support them in feeling comfortable.

 

  • Reinforce wanted behaviour as opposed to unwanted behaviour.

This key has really supported our preschool, playschool and daycare centre.  As stated before if we simply give a child what they want when they cry, we are unconsciously telling them to cry whenever they want something and they will surely receive it.

 

About Little Human Scholars School and Full Day Daycare Centre in PJ

Little Human Scholars is an all-in-one childcare solution.  It is a preschool, playschool, kindergarten, nursery and full day daycare centre (with extended hours) located in the heart of PJ.

In fact, the location is one of the things which makes Little Human Scholars so sought after – it is conveniently nestled near Jalan Gasing, University hospital, PJ Old town, PJ New town, Jaya One, Jaya33, and the PJ IT Mall.

The best part is LHS has premiere services many other schools in PJ don’t offer such as full day daycare with extended hours, CCTV access for parents, and a nifty little phone app called Toddlytic which provides parents with automatic updates on their child’s development, behaviour and health checks.

With full-time guards always present at each of their locations, access to CCTV (which is in every room except the office, bathroom and kitchen areas), and very strict pick-up and drop-off rules, Little Human Scholars treats every child who walks into its hallways as one of their own children!

This place has it all:  location, safety, health, IGSCE curriculum and play-based learning.  What more could you ask for?  Did I mention they also have transportation services and offer meal plans for students?  It doesn’t get any better than that.

If you are interested in a tour of one of our centres (that’s right, there’s more than one), all you need to do is fill out the form here or call +6017-7303-025 and an LHS administrative staff will get back with you shortly!

 

Cheers,

Jana Moreno

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