Sweet Sorrow

by Teacher Annie

When it comes to separation anxiety, the body language says it all: the lower lip is protruding, the chin begins to quiver, the eyes grow wider, and tears begin to pool along the lower lids. It's obvious that there is a fifty-fifty chance that there may soon be screaming and wailing. If this mother doesn't pull herself together, it won't be safe for her to drive out of the parking lot! Of course, her child is having fun playing with trains in the classroom, but Mom feels that the world is ending this morning. No one tells you when you're considering starting a family about the intense separation anxiety that parents sometimes feel when adjusting to leaving their children in the care of others. If this is something that you are going through right now, here are a few things that may help a little:

-Your teachers care about your feelings and the feelings of your child. We are parents, too, and were even little children once ourselves. We have a lot of experience in helping children and parents make this important transition, and realize that everyone is individual and unique.

-If you feel no discomfort about leaving your child at school, or if your child doesn't seem to even notice when you leave, HURRAY! If you can't wait to make use of that two hours or if you wish it were longer, good for you! Not all good parents experience separation anxiety.

-Young children, beginning at about age two, benefit from brief separations from their parent. Their healthy development of autonomy and self-esteem depends on having many experiences at saying goodbye, and then saying hello again. Reading your textbook or other child-development-based parenting books will reinforce your confidence about this.

-Once you are satisfied that school is a safe and happy place for your child, try to make your goodbyes short and sweet. Realize that having some residual guilt or ambivalence about leaving a young child at preschool is normal, but it isn't necessarily based on rational thinking.

-Crying is not the end of the world. Children cry and then they feel better. It can be a healthy way for children to relieve stress and express strong feelings. But it doesn't mean that school isn't a wonderful place for your child to be. If your child cries excessively your teacher will let you know. The teacher and the classroom parents are there to provide emotional support. And: these same rules apply to parental crying. Just try to wipe your eyes before you drive out into traffic.

-Difficulty saying goodbye is often a two-way street. Children pick up on their parents' anxieties. Try to remind yourself that your child is ready for this experience and attempt not to convey anxious feelings to your child. Talk with other parents who have been through it, and reassure yourself that you and your child are experiencing a normal part of development.

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