The start of the Montessori preschool year is a time of excitement and worry for little ones. Some children may have no problem transitioning from preschool to kindergarten, but others struggle and may develop separation anxiety. They may display symptoms of distress, like crying, clinging to a parent, having tantrums, and refusing to go to school.
Separation anxiety is a common developmental stage for all children, usually occurring between 18 and 24 months. Children are naturally attached to their moms and family, so it is only natural to have anxiety when separated from their loved ones. It may be normal, but it is also frustrating for both parent and child. The good news is that you can help your child cope with this common condition by following some helpful steps suggested below.
How to Deal with Separation Anxiety?
As Montessori parents, you play a significant role in helping a child cope with separation anxiety. You must have the patience to support your child through this condition, showing them that it is okay to experience these feelings. You must also make sure your child knows that you are there for them when they need you. And most importantly, you must have an idea of how to deal with it so that your child is not left with no way to cope.
Suppose you are a parent who is struggling to deal with this condition. We at Montessori Academy are here to help. We have compiled tips on how to deal with separation anxiety for your child:
8 Valuable Tips on How to Deal with Separation Anxiety
1. Preparing for the First Day of Preschool
It may be difficult for you to understand your preschooler’s mood changes during this period. You may see that your child is happy and joyous on the first day of school, but then the next day, you notice that he is crying and clinging to you. It is a normal and unavoidable phenomenon for children who experience separation anxiety. Much like us adults, your child has emotions and feelings that may come up when separated from their parents.
To help your young child cope with this condition, it is important to prepare them before the first day of school. The following are some helpful tips on what you can do to prepare your child:
- Talk to your child about your upcoming separation. You can talk about what will happen and how many days or weeks you will be away from them.
- Visit their new school, meet the educators and tour their classrooms. You may even want to spend some time talking to other parents whose children attend that same preschool, so they know someone when they are walking into a new environment.
- Prepare all your child’s belongings. Make sure all their snacks and materials are ready to go.
- Or you can read to them about their favorite characters going to school. Stories include ‘A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton and ‘Mum Goes to Work’ by Libby Gleeson and Leila Rudge.
A few days before you send your child to school, you should spend time talking to your little one about what they like to do and what they will do during the day. Also, prepare them by reassuring them that they will have fun with other children and teachers.
2. Modeling Positive Behaviors and Attitudes
As a parent, you must always demonstrate positive behavior and attitudes. Never reinforce anxiety or negativity by showing your child that you feel anxious about sending them to school. Try to stay calm and if you are not able to do so, go into another room until you have total control over your emotions.
Keep discussions about preschool positive, so your child will feel comfortable expressing their feelings. Kids easily pick up on their parents’ emotions, and if you show anxiety, they will be more anxious. If you show contentment, they will feel better.
3. Establish Morning Routines
A new school means new routines for your child. Try to establish a morning routine before the first day of preschool. And ensure to stick to that routine for the first few weeks of school. It will help them feel more secure about going to their new school. A regular morning routine can include:
- Singing a special ‘school day’ themed song
- Encouraging your little one to pack their school bag
- Chatting about their day ahead
- And let your child brush their teeth (if they have the independence)
And remember to always give yourself enough time to get ready and arrive on time. Feeling rushed or late can cause kids to feel additional anxiety and worry.
4. Acknowledge your Preschooler’s Feelings
It is crucial to acknowledge and validate your preschooler’s feelings when upset. Remember, you will not always know what is best for your child, as you may not know everyone in the new environment just yet.
Positively acknowledge their feelings, so your child will feel better about their separation anxiety. For instance, if your child is upset when you send them off to school, do not tell them that no one will care or love them at their new school. Instead, show your child that moving forward is a positive thing. Tell them that they are going to a great school, where they will learn and grow, and you will probably miss them too.
Help your child recognize their feelings and teach them how to deal with them. For instance, when your preschooler is feeling sad, you can:
- Read a Montessori-friendly book about their feelings to help them think through their emotions.
- Encourage them to find a way to feel better. For example, count to 10 or take a deep breath
- Give feedback and encouragement that they feel sad and see them trying to feel better.
5. Establish a Goodbye Routine
The morning can be very stressful for your child if you do not establish a goodbye routine. A goodbye routine is something you can use every time you send your preschooler off to school. It will help your young child feel more secure and keep themselves calm before they go off to school.
Montessori moms who establish a consistent goodbye routine usually have better luck with successful goodbyes. So take a moment with your little one to say goodbye, and do it consistently, every day. A short, consistent goodbye routine may be as:
- Giving a kiss and a cuddle
- Creating a secret handshake
- Or giving your child a thumbs up
A short goodbye is an excellent way for your little one to start their day feeling happy and reassured.
6. Let Your Child Bring Comforters
While you may not let your child bring all the toys they want, it is important to allow them to bring a comfort item or two. A comfort item can help your child feel secure and remind them of home while they are away. The choice of the comfort item should be up to your child, as every child may have a different preference. Comfort items can include a blanket, soft toys (small), or an open-ended toy like a doll. An alternate to comforters are love notes in your little one’s lunch box or sending them to a Montessori preschool with a photo of your family.
Over time, they are likely to need comforters less and less, as they will handle the separation anxiety on their own.
7. Encourage Your Child To Make Friends
As parents, we want our children to make friends and enjoy school. And you need to encourage your child to play with other children and connect with them. Try to encourage your preschooler to make friends by asking questions like, “What do you think of that girl” or “Why don’t you try talking to the boy over there?”
Your child may have a great time playing with one specific friend. But it’s possible they won’t be able to connect right away. If that is the case, remind them of the other children who also enjoy their company and will probably play with them at some point. Talking positively about friends will help your child feel more confident, which makes it easier for them to make friends.
8. Establish Pick Up Routines
You should be punctual when picking up your preschoolers. If you are late picking them up, your child may start to get anxious. Every time you pick them up, try to arrive a few minutes before they should be released. As soon as the bell rings, your child should leave with their teacher. And if you are running late, let the teacher know that you will be there shortly so that your child does not start worrying about what is going on.
All in all, separation anxiety is normal for preschoolers, and it becomes easier for them as they age and learn how to handle it on their own. Do not feel bad that your child is experiencing anxiety because this is a part of growing up and making friends. Instead, remain positive and utilize the tips on how to help your preschoolers adjust to their new Montessori school.
At Montessori Academy, we understand that separation anxiety is very common for young children. We have guided our teachers along the way to help your child and us ease the transition into our school community.
Our teachers will create a positive relationship with your little one from day one. This relationship assists in helping your child feel more welcome when they arrive at preschool. The teachers may also allow them to bring a special toy instead of a comforter to have something familiar with them at school. The teachers will also do their best to make sure your child feels like they belong to be eager to attend Montessori Academy each day. If you have further questions, you are more than welcome to contact us at any time. We are happy to help you and your child through this transition.
You may contact us at (310) 215 -3388 for Culver City and (323) 795-0200 for West Adams.