As a stay-at-home mom, my son and I spent the first three years of his life side-by-side. To say I was worried about his transition to preschool is an understatement. My son is quite a sensitive soul and saying goodbye is often difficult for him. Some days he hugs me fifteen times before I can leave the house and continuously waves goodbye through open windows and screen doors until my car is far from view.
In an effort to ease my son’s anxieties (and my own), I spent a month preparing for the first day of school. I learned a lot from that first experience, but after a long summer together, I’m worried that another difficult transition might be in store this year.
How to Avoid Goodbye Tears in 7 Steps
1. Read books that focus on separation anxiety. My son enjoyed Llama Llama Misses Mama, I Love You All Day Long and The Kissing Hand. Relate these stories to your own child. Explain how your child will spend his day at school, the types of activities she may participate in and any concerns he may have about leaving mom and dad. Focus on the positive aspects and experiences of school as well as the negative emotions she may experience when saying goodbye to parents. If your child is old enough, try to get him to talk about the book and how the characters feel.
2. Create a goodbye ritual that you practice and repeat every time you say goodbye, not just when you drop the child off at school. Squeeze your child’s hand, put your hand up to his or her cheeks, pull their hand up to your cheek or hug a specific number of times. Find a goodbye ritual that works best for you!
3. Talk about your return and focus on when you will see your child again. Think of this as a bridge to the next time you will see them. I told my son I would be first in line at the door when class let out. Talk about the hugs you’ll give when you are reunited and what you might do when the school day is over. If you have the time plan a few extra activities for the first few days like a trip to the play ground, a special snack after school or a family bike ride. Give your child something to look forward to when you see each other again.
4. Keep the lines of communication open with your child. In a calm, quiet, safe environment, ask your child about his feelings. Do this before the first day or after the first day is over, not while you are in the middle of drop off. Ask your child if they might feel sad when you drop him off in the morning. Then wait for your child to react to this question. Be sure to provide reassurance by letting your child know you recognize his feelings. Tell him you know he is sad. Then focus on the fact that you love him and always plan to see him again.
5. To ease your child’s separation anxiety provide him with something physical to take to school. This could be a favorite stuffed animal, a blanket or a photograph of your family. The child can carry it throughout the day or leave it in a cubby and reach out for comfort from it when they are feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
6. If your child will eat a snack or lunch at school, pack a special note in his lunch box. This will remind your child of your connection as the school day continues. While many children feel better moments after their parents leave, others will have trouble adjusting throughout the day. This special note will help your child feel a connection while you are separated.
7. When the first day is over, place extra emphasis on any positive aspects of the day. Did your child like his lunch, snack or the book he read at circle time? Help your child find something to look forward to the next time he returns to school.
Many of these techniques helped my son transition to school last year. I hope they continue to help him this year too.
About the All-Star Blogger
One Frugal Girl is the mother of two precious boys. She writes an anonymous blog about personal finance titled One Frugal Girl.