Separation anxiety is a normal part of growing up, reports Dr. Alan Greene, pediatrician at the Stanford School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California. While peak separation distress usually occurs between 6-12 months, some little ones will wait until school days loom before letting loose with their worries and fears. Dr. Greene suggests staying calm as your best line of defense against full blown anxiety attacks that disrupt and delay the joys that await your child.When separation anxiety grips your little guy, firm actions and words go a long way toward calming his nervous jitters. Here’s how you can take charge:
Dawdle before departure. Walk your little scholar to the schoolroom door and chat a bit with the teacher or other parents. Include your child in the interaction, especially if schoolmates are present. After a few minutes, prepare for departure.
Bid a short and sweet farewell. When the time has come to leave, say goodbye. Blow kisses, wave, and gently close the door behind you.
Ooze confidence. Do you feel anxiety when it's time to separate? If so, your child will sense it and attempt to cling. Stand firm. Briefly explain the agenda: I’m going to the market and you’re going to school. I’ll be back to pick you up in three hours. If the tone of your voice and the smile on your face are authentic, he’ll get the picture.
Create familiar routines. If your child knows what to expect, his confidence will grow. Keep school morning rituals the same. Drive the same route; arrive at the same time. Continue to dawdle a bit at the door, if necessary.
Many happy returns. Don’t be surprised if one day soon your child doesn’t even notice you’ve left the building. He’s having way too much fun exploring his world and playing with his little colleagues. When the school bell rings and class is dismissed, always demonstrate how happy you are to see him again. Kisses, hugs and plenty of sweet talk are always in order.
Start the night before
The best school morning routines actually start hours before the sun even rises. If your child has trouble getting out the door, or making decisions, do what you can ahead of time. Tasks include lying out your child's clothes, making lunch, and packing the backpack (folder, snack, change of clothes, library books etc.). Check your family's calendar -- is there anything special you need to bring in for a holiday celebration or birthday party?
The good thing about starting early is that you have more time, and you can let your preschooler have a say in what she's wearing or what she'd like to eat. It's sometimes overwhelming for little ones to make decisions, so only offer two or three things to choose from, making sure that all of the options are acceptable to you. As part of your nighttime planning, remember, it's also important that your child get enough sleep the night before.
Give yourself enough time.
A morning routine is supposed to ease stress, let everyone know what they are supposed to do, and give them the time to do it. So make sure that the alarm clocks are not only set, but that you have enough time to do everything that needs to be done. And be sure to allow for the personality of your child -- if he's a dawdler who likes to watch television or spend a half hour poking at his scrambled eggs, allow for that. It will make everyone happier in the long run.
Allow for some leeway.
Even with your advance prep, definitely leave some room for some game-day decisions. From breakfast to hairstyles, definitely don't have everything written in stone. Moods change and a morning routine should be accommodating of that. One tip though -- be sure to stick with whatever you decided on the night before. By allowing a change of outfit for example, and your child has trouble making decisions, it could throw off the morning. Plan to be spontaneous by knowing ahead of time what you will deciding on in the morning.
Remember you need to get ready too! When charting out your morning routine, don't forget to factor in yourself and all you need to do. Waking up before your preschooler will allow you to get your own tasks done and then focus on making sure your little one has a great day.