A few weeks ago I came across an article written by a Preschool Teacher about the Do’s and Don’ts of Preschool drop off. It was a great read re-enforcing the normality of separation anxiety in preschoolers, even those who appear to be resilient like my own daughter. I appreciated the validation that what I was doing was the best thing for my daughter and so I thought I would share a bit about my experience so far regarding the trials and tribulations of the wilful preschooler.
As a dance teacher I am very familiar with separation anxiety in preschoolers, however when I recently experienced it from the other side, my mummy instincts went into overdrive and suddenly I was at risk of making the same mistake I encourage others not to make on a daily basis – giving in.
My daughter (pictured above) has always been a very easy going child. She’s never displayed any kind of separation or social anxieties, and is always very willing to participate in any activity. She loves to dance and swim, is very socially engaging with others and will happily self entertain with games, books, drawing and puzzles. When I go to work she happily waves goodbye and continues playing.
So imagine my surprise when out of the blue all this changed after a recent business trip. Due to her easy going nature my husband and I hadn’t even considered preparing her for the idea of me going away for a few days, we just assumed she would be fine and adapt to the situation like she normally does. Oh how wrong we were! When I left that morning she was a sobbing mess begging me not to go and when my plane landed I turned my phone on to find a text from my husband that said “Just got to dance. All I can hear is her crying inside. She’s refusing to dance.” Oh dear this is not my happy easy going child but alas it was and this behaviour continued for the next few lessons.
Then just two weeks ago she started preschool. Day one was amazing! We waved goodbye and she was happy to join in but by the time we got to goodbyes on day 4 the novelty had worn off completely and she was a sobbing, screaming mess begging me to stay. It took all my strength to leave, but “teacher me” convinced “mummy me” that she would be fine once I was gone.
Sure enough when I picked her up that afternoon and asked how her day was, she replied that it was GREAT! I’m glad she had a good day. Me on the other hand, I felt sad all day and constantly wondered if I had done the right thing leaving her in a screaming mess for someone else to deal with.
So often I see a child in one of my classes displaying similar characteristics to my daughter and parents struggling with their emotions on whether they should leave them or give in and take them out of the class. Quite often there is concern that the child might be too disruptive to the other children or thoughts that if all they are going to do is cry then it is a waste of both their time and the teachers.
However very few children, including my daughter, continue to cry once they become involved in the class. Most of the time within a few minutes they will happily participate. Some may take a bit more time to become familiar with the new social environment but eventually, if handled with positivity and support, they become engaged in the activity and the benefits they receive far out way the initial tears.
So parents – be brave! Is it hard to walk away when your child appears to be in such emotional distress – ABSOLUTELY! But be assured the sadness you feel for them is far greater than the sadness they are feeling in that moment. Be positive and encouraging, don’t be embarrassed that your child is upset as it will happen to even the most outgoing child at some stage, I know that from experience. Your decision to enrich their lives with activities is a great one so don’t be hard on them or yourself if it doesn’t initially go according to plan. They will be fine and they will enjoy the experience if you approach it the right way. Remember to always reinforce the positives.
~ Miss Candice
Footnote: The Do’s & Don’ts of Preschool Drop Off!