by Kelley Jilek
New situations mean change, which can be hard for many (young, as well as older) people to cope with. However, if the new situation is welcoming, we experience less anxiety and stress, which makes it easier for us to adjust. This is especially true for young children. Any kind of transition can be difficult for them. This includes separating from loved ones at the start of the day, moving to a new facility, or even transitioning to a different classroom within a facility. Infants, toddlers, and preschool children have limited coping skills, so it is up to the adults in their lives to help them.
When transitioning to a new room or facility, try to spend a few hours there with your child before she begins. If possible, meet the teacher and the other children, explore the environment, take pictures, and share them with friends and other family members. Your enthusiasm will reassure your child. To ease or minimize separation anxiety:
- Avoid sneaking away. It’s important that you say goodbye to your child before you leave. If you sneak out, he may become frightened and feel abandoned when he realizes you’re gone!
- Develop a goodbye ritual. It can be a simple hug and kiss, a wave from the window, or a high-five. Come up with something that works for the two of you and do it every day. Your child will look forward to your special routine and will know what to expect next.
- Let your child know what is going to happen. For example, explain that you will stay for five minutes, and then you will say goodbye. Be sure to follow through. Play or read a book together. After five minutes, say goodbye one time and then leave.
- Avoid sending mixed signals. Children can sense if you aren’t comfortable with the situation or if you’re feeling guilty for leaving. If you’re visibly upset or resort to offering rewards or bribes, your child may feel that there is a reason to be upset. Work toward accepting the situation yourself if it’s what you truly want.
- Read books. Visit your local library or bookstore for some of the titles below, or ask for other titles on the topic. Children often relate well to stories:
The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing
Ready for the Day! by Stacey R. Kaye
Llama Llama Misses Mamma by Anna Dewdney
Bye-Bye Time by Elizabeth Verdick
I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackus