My little toddler started an un-parented class in December 2013. I was panicked the first day I brought him to the class. I was prepared for him to have a hard time transitioning as this was the first time he was alone in an unfamiliar environment. He walked into the room said, “bye” and I left. He did not bat an eyelash. He was happy to go play. That was easy for him. ( I cried as soon as I sat in the van). This happened for 4 weeks, no issues at all. He would simply run into the classroom.
Week 5, he went into the room without issue but, he started to cry when we walked away. (Daddy was with me.) The teacher had reported that he cried for a few minutes and then he was distracted by his peers. He was happy when Daddy picked him up.
Then the next week he did not want to go in and he cried. He held onto to me, and the teacher had to pull him off me. I kept it together (how I am not sure) until I was out of his sight. I cried in the stairwell. When I went to pick him up I could hear him laughing and having fun.
After speaking to the teacher, I discovered that there were no major changes in the program (the teacher had changed but that was weeks before) and that he was not having issues with any of his peers. He was not expressing any concerns about the classroom.
The only thing that had changed was that he was potty training. BINGO! He hit a developmental milestone that changed things for him.
It has been 4 weeks of the separation anxiety issues. He still struggles with going in the room; however, the teacher does not have to pull him off me. I can pass him to her with some minor whimpers. This is a work in progress. I am confident it will continue to get better.
So what did I do to help reduce his anxiety? Here are some of the tips I used:
- Remain calm I did not let him see me get emotional. I remained as calm as possible.
- Consistency I remained consistent. I took the same shoes for him, followed our regular routine before class, and then I used the same reassuring words, “Mommy will see you soon.”
- Transitional object I gave him part of my key chain to put in his pocket and gave him a business card to put in his other pocket. He now requests the items before he goes into the classroom.
- Don’t rush away when the program is done. I take a few minutes to sit with him and listen while he tells me about his class. This way I can ask the teacher what he did that day and talk it up all week.
The main thing to remember when you are going through a similar situation is that this too shall pass. Separation issues can be a normal part of development.
I often tell parents that separation issues are a sign of a good attachment. It can be hard to not just take your child and leave for the day. I believe this is a teachable moment and a great opportunity for you to show your son or daughter how to cope in similar situations.
Hang in there. This behaviour should get better with time and consistency.
Keep on smiling and hug your kids!