Having taught in early childhood settings for many years before having my own children, I thought I would be well prepared for separation anxiety. The truth is, no one likes to be separated from their child, especially if their child is crying. But, there are some tips and tricks to make drop off time a better experience for both child and parent.
The first tip is to develop a routine and stick to it. My routine is a hug and a kiss with a firm “I love you” in the the ear. Children love the predictability of a routine. In other words, they want to know what is happening next. Once you have established your routine, the child knows the next step is you are leaving.
As a note, your child will be looking at you to gauge their safety and security, so do your best to not look upset, rushed, or anxious, even if your heart is telling you otherwise. So if you are running late or you are sad, you must smile and confidently carry out your routine. Do not waiver or give in to your child’s demands or tears.
It can be tempting to ghost your child at drop off, that is sneaking out and running away. I do not recommend this method. This goes back to making a routine and making sure your child feels secure. Discovering that your parent left you, does not make you feel secure. Ghosting your child disrupts the routine and gives mixed messages about separation. Such as, if your child lost you in a public space like a park or grocery store, they wouldn’t necessarily know anything was wrong if the parent uses sneaking out as a form of separation. Turning around to find their caregiver is gone could eventually be normalized.
The next tip is to not make your child feel bad about crying or expressing emotion during separation. These feelings are completely normal in the beginning. You can validate your child’s feelings by telling them something like ‘I can see you are sad/angry now, but soon you will be having fun with your teacher and friends’ then do your goodbye routine and stick to it.
You may have to hand your child to the teacher or teaching assistant, but take comfort in knowing almost all children stop crying within the first 2 minutes of a parent leaving. Overtime, the separation anxiety will decrease and your child will trust the established routine.