A lot of parents feel acutely nervous when their child begins school. You may worry about your child's adjustment, or just miss spending time with him or her. While this is completely normal, there are ways you can alleviate your stress when your child flies the coop.
* Stay busy. Those two simple words are the key to surviving separation anxiety. Plan ahead and schedule activities before your child leaves, so that you will be occupied in the days after her departure. Even if you don't feel like participating in these activities, go through the motions and allow yourself some time to adjust. Remember how important it is to fill your days, and don't allow yourself to mope around the house. Get moving!
* Get support from other parents in similar circumstances. Form a club or start your own Mom's Class or Mom's Summer Camp. Get together regularly to have some child-free fun, or just to share how much you miss your kids. Lean on parents who will understand and empathize.
* Enjoy your time! Think about all the things you always wanted to do but couldn't, because of your parental responsibilities. Now's your chance! Spend time with a spouse, get involved in yoga, take a class, or redecorate your favorite room in the house. Most parents have a running mental list of projects, but never have the chance to work on them. Consider this free time a golden opportunity.
* Never make your child feel guilty. It's very likely that your child will pick up on some of your nervousness, but try to maintain a positive attitude. Parental separation anxiety often transfers to children and contributes to their anxiety, which will in turn trouble you and lead to a cycle of guilt. Do your best to be enthusiastic and upbeat about your child's plans. You don't want your child to feel apologetic or to regret his leaving, so make sure that you express only optimistic thoughts.
* Exchange tokens with your child. Give her something that you made, or a small memento that has meaning for you. Explain the significance of this gift to your child and ask her to give you a small memento, as well. This way, when you are separated, you both will have a souvenir for comfort.
* Drop-off routine to the rescue
Whether this is your child's first school experience or a new phase, these early morning meltdowns are draining for everyone involved. So what do you do when your child refuses to say goodbye and happily trot off to a busy day at preschool? What you need is a "drop off routine." Children thrive on the predictability of rituals and routines. Just as a good bedtime ritual helps you to enforce parting until dawn, a consistent drop- off routine will help you part for a day at preschool.
Creating the drop-off routine should be a collaborative effort with your child's teacher. Select a series of steps that you will take every day when you and your child arrive at preschool. The goal is not to delay the inevitable, but to ritualize the goodbye. The predictability may help your child remain calm as the "goodbye" approaches.
* Keep it simple. Your routine could be as simple as helping your child hang up his coat, reading two books in the reading corner, and then waving goodbye at the door. Or you could decide to watch your child color a picture and take it with you when you depart. The routine can change over time, and eventually you might not even need one. A drop-off routine will not always keep your child from crying, especially at first. Some children cry for days before they adjust. Once you have finished the activities in your routine, you may need the teacher's reassuring arms to help your child as you leave.
Helping children with separation is a large part of a teacher's job. Often the teacher is more effective at calming down your child after the dreaded goodbye has passed. Believe your child's teacher when she says that your little one only cried for two minutes or so. But ask her to let you know if she is consistently unable to calm your child.
* Simple steps for separation. There are other simple steps that can help your child adjust to the separation. Leave a family photo in your child's cubby. Demonstrate to your child that you trust and like his teacher with a happy greeting in the morning. Provide your child with an opportunity to talk about his feelings, but do not dwell on the issue. Try to relax and have faith that this problem will pass. Before you know it you will be hearing "but I said I don't want to go home!"