Is your child starting school or not looking forward to going back? Are you dreading the school drop-off? Nothing pulls at our heartstrings more than an unhappy child who needs to be peeled off us to go into school. Whilst separation anxiety is a normal part of children’s development, if you are a parent with a child who sobs every morning when you drop them at school, it can be soul-destroying.
However, all is not lost. These five simple techniques should equip your child with the skills they need to overcome their anxieties, making saying those morning goodbyes much more stress-free.
Take your own angst out of the equation
You cannot expect your child to be confident saying goodbye to you if you are harboring any sort of guilt and angst yourself. So it is important to remind yourself that your child’s separation anxiety is a normal part of their development. It does not reflect poor parenting and will not cause any psychological harm to them in the future.
With your own angsts in check you can ensure your goodbyes are short and sweet at school drop-off, with no unnecessary lingering, which will make the process of saying goodbye much kinder to your child.
Problem-solve your own goodbye routine
Find a neutral time to discuss your child’s separation anxiety with them. You might start the conversation by saying “I’ve noticed you get very upset when you have to say goodbye to me at school. I can see how sad and upset it makes you feel, so I wanted to talk to you about how we might make it easier for you to say goodbye to me in the morning”. Then encourage your child to discuss possible solutions to the problem with you, so you can create your own unique ‘good-bye routine’ to prepare for a stress-free school drop-off.
If your child finds it hard to get started give them some options “would you prefer me to put your bags on the peg and then kiss you goodbye, or should I say goodbye outside the cloakroom?”
Practice makes perfect
Once you have set up your goodbye routine it is always helpful to practice at home. It’s fun to start by asking your child to play ‘mummy’ and you can be them. You can then role-play arriving at school and following your agreed routine before swapping over and asking your child to try.
This gives you a chance to ‘iron out’ any crinkles in the routine and reinforce it with your child, so it seems much less daunting when they have to do it for real.
Consistency is key
Make it easier for your child to carry out your new goodbye routine by applying the routine consistently each and every day. Go through each step of the routine in the same way, say goodbye at the same spot, use the same phrases, and keep the school drop-off parting short and sweet. Your child will gain a great sense of security from this new routine and over time their confidence will grow enabling them to go into school independently.
Once your child is regularly going into school with no tears, you can gradually change the routine so they have more and more independence.
Praise their efforts
Throughout this process always acknowledge how your child feels whilst telling them you have every confidence in their ability to see the routine through. Praise every small step towards the end goal, so your child knows you aware of how hard they are trying. You might say something along these lines “I noticed how difficult you found it to say goodbye to me this morning, but I am so proud you took a deep breath and waved goodbye. You showed me how hard you have been working on saying goodbye to me without crying”
By praising all your child’s efforts rather than focusing on the final outcome, you will boost their confidence and build up their self-belief.
Article by Dr Maryhan Baker