One week into the summer school year and our new preschool friends are still getting to know us. The typically peaceful playground where we meet each morning, now dotted with tearful goodbyes. Heartstrings pulled as parents depart for the day. One can’t help but worry of a child’s well-being the first time he is away from his family.
One more kiss.
The final goodbye.
Mid-mornings during the next few weeks will be followed by a series of check-ins as we assure parents and provide information regarding their child’s progress. Separation during the time that a child is building a relationship with her teacher and peers can make saying goodbye in the morning difficult. Always, the crying is the hardest part.
Crying, however, can be a positive indicator that your child enjoys a healthy attachment with his family. More concerning would be if a child were to run off with us as strangers without the need for a final goodbye, one more kiss, or another hug. Over time, teacher and parent will establish their rapport and your child will feel safe and secure with his new friends.
Until then, parents can assist their children with separation by:
1. establishing consistent routines. The more consistent you are in every details with the young child, the better she is able to process and incorporate what is to come- even to the detail of where you park your car. When able, both parents being involved those first few days will facilitate a family ritual of coming to school that will continue when either Mom or Dad drops off.
2. choosing a quiet place. Avoid high traffic areas when saying goodbye to your little one. It’s difficult to connect with your child and refuel her if you are trying to do so near an entrance. Look for a nearby area away from the hustle and bustle, preferably near her primary teacher.
3. maintaining a positive attitude, even when you don’t feel good about the situation. Your child will absorb your attitude and words as you separate for the very first time. It’s OK to acknowledge that you will miss each other and empathize that being in a new situation can be difficult. However, when you believe your child is in good hands and when you value the experiences he will have with new friends, he will share in that. In the meantime, do find ways to connect with your teacher especially during the next few weeks in order that you can cultivate your own sense of well-being and convey that to your child.
4. resisting the urge to negotiate separation rituals. Young children derive a sense of security when they are sure of the adult being in control. Putting the power of separating into a child’s hands can make the process much more difficult for both parties and introduces confusion when a teacher may try to assist. An invitation for another hug or just one more kiss becomes absorbed quickly into the routine itself. Magda Gerber warmed “Be careful what you promise” as you will need to continue to provide for future experiences. And when it comes to that final goodbye…
5. saying goodbye and meaning it. Don’t leave without saying goodbye and don’t say goodbye until you mean it. It is better to interrupt a child who may have engaged with an activity or a friend while you were separating when you have to leave. Otherwise, she may find herself at a loss looking up later to find you are gone. When you do say “goodbye” mean it. Leave. Yes, you can look back with a wave, but do not hesitate and do not return. Allow your child to turn to his friends and teacher for support in moving forward in your absence. He will learn that outside his family, you can always count on good friends.
Still not sure? Give a ring if we don’t call you first. With every “goodbye” comes a “hello.”