So you finally managed to get your child through breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and getting in the car, but one hurdle remains – saying goodbye!
Whether going to school for the first time, or returning after a summer at home, going to school involves transition. Feelings of excitement may be accompanied by feelings of anxiety. Crying, clinging, and even begging (“Please don’t leave me!) can be harder on parents than kids. Remember that most children quickly turn off the tears after saying goodbye, then move on to learning and laughing with teachers and friends!
With a little patience and consistency, rest assured that you and your child will adjust to the transition. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions to help ease your morning drop-off:
Start early. Prep as much as you can the night before (set out clothes, prepare lunch and backpacks, etc.). Try to get kids in bed early so they get plenty of rest and can wake early enough for a healthy breakfast, extra cuddles and a calm morning routine.
Be consistent. Change can be tough for everyone. Consistency is key to a successful transition to school. Going to school on a regular basis will help your child adjust and teach them how to work through negative feelings. Each time you pick them up, remind them that you came to pick them up just as promised, which may ease anxiety the next day.
Talk about what to expect, and listen. Even for adults, the unknown can be scary. Keep explanations simple, but letting your child know what to expect may reduce anxiety. Explain changes to their routine, and try to focus on the positive side of each. Ask your child if they are excited about school, then listen. If they bring up concerns, acknowledge them and address them openly. Talk about healthy ways to ease their fears. If concerns persist or worsen, speak with your child’s teacher about them.
Use drive time to get kids excited. On the way to school, talk about what you know to be the favorite parts of your child’s day. Mention any special friends you know they’ll be excited to see to remind them of what they like about school. Stay upbeat, and if you sense the conversation is causing more stress, switch to small talk. Try to avoid giving your child any ideas (“Don’t throw a fit”) or comparing them with other kids (“Joe never cries at drop-off”).
Think about developing a goodbye ritual. Sometimes expecting that special hug or high five along with a consistent phrase (“See you later, alligator!”) can make it easier for your child to say goodbye. Once you’ve said your goodbyes, it’s best to leave quickly.
Stay positive and keep goodbyes short and sweet. Kids can pick up on your mood. So if you appear nervous and anxious, your child will likely follow suit. Try to appear confident that your child will separate easily — say goodbye cheerfully and matter-of-factly before leaving.
Read books with your child that address goodbyes. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney are excellent books that can ease separation anxiety in preschoolers. Children in elementary school and beyond may benefit from interactive self-help books such as ‘What to Do When You Worry Too Much’ by Dawn Huebner. Reading about how others deal with similar feelings can be comforting, and help reinforce your efforts to calm anxiety.
Help the teacher get to know your child. Ideally, your child’s teacher will be warm, caring, and able to anticipate your child’s needs. If you know your child is anxious, brief the new teacher with information that could help them get to know each other better. Knowing favorite colors, games, or even songs your child likes can be helpful. It may also help to know what techniques you use to calm your child when feeling upset or anxious.
Don’t be too hard on yourself! Remind yourself that these feelings are normal, and part of growing up. They often come and go. Learning to work through difficult emotions is an important part of becoming more independent and learning to cope with transitions in life. Remember that time apart is healthy for you and your child.
It’s important to find a school that creates a positive, welcoming environment where your child loves to learn. At Cranium Academy, our teachers look forward to working as a team with parents in easing the transition to school.
Remember that with patience and consistency, your little one will better adjust so you can say goodbye to tears and hello to a successful school year!
Cranium Academy offers a completely unique preschool through fifth grade private school experience. Students benefit from a unique combination of advanced curriculum featuring custom learning paths, critical thinking, innovative technology, and creative play experiences. Summer camps, holiday camps, birthday parties, after school programs, and more are also available. Now serving more of the Orlando area with our Winter Garden – Windermere location and our newest location in East Orlando near Lake Nona, FL.