Putting your child into someone else’s care is never an easy thing to do, but when they have spent their entire lives in your care it seems almost impossible. This separation will never be easy, but it can be made more tolerable with a few steps.
Begin preparing your child for separation well before the actual separation date
You can do this by enrolling your child in separation classes. These classes, like ones offered at Tinker Tots or My Gym, provide a fun environment that gently eases your child into the idea of separation for short periods of time.
Arrange a visit
Take some time to visit where your child will be spending his days. If possible, go after the other kids have left so that your child has the run of the place. Ask if you could meet with your child’s teacher so that he knows his teacher before the first day.
Prep your provider
If possible, arrange for a face to face meeting to give your childcare provider the rundown of your child’s likes and dislikes, fears, and things that could help make his transition smoother.
Ease your child into the new environment
For elementary students, take advantage of pre-K, either at a school or at a community service provider. For daycares or nursery schools, ask if they have a transitional period or some sort of shortened day to get kids use to the idea of out of home care before they start full-time. If they don’t have a formal transitional program, ask if you can design one so that your can leave your child for a few hours per day.
Provide your child with a “friend” to take to school
Every kid has some stuffed animal that is his comfort. This is NOT the toy you want your little one to take to school. Take your child to the store and have him pick out his school buddy, and let him know that it will always be in his bag or cubby to remind him of home. I gave my daughter a little rubber dinosaur that I’ve kept in my car since I bought it and told her she has to return it to me when I pick her up. I always know when she’s had a rough day when I find her holding the dinosaur.
Don’t rush to leave home
Each morning build some time into your routine at home so that your child can get ready at a leisurely pace. This additional time also helps on the days when he absolutely refuses to leave the house.
Connect with the provider
Don’t drop off your child and leave in an instant. Take the time to talk to the teachers. If your child had a rough night or is sad, it helps to give the teacher a heads up about this information. Ask the teacher what is on tap for the day’s activity. This helps you to convey some excitement to your child about what to expect and give you something to talk about when you pick him up. Also, take the time to talk with the teachers when your pick your child up. Ask about issues your child may be facing during his transition.
Use books and imaginative play to stimulate conversation about your child’s experience
Lammas Lamma Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney is a great way to get your little one talking about his experience and reinforce the idea that you will always come back to pick him up at the end of the day. Play pretend to get a sense of how he’s feeling and what he is doing in the school/daycare setting.
Every child is different, and some take longer to adjust than others. Always show unbounded enthusiasm for heading off to school, even if you don’t feel it.