It is that time of year again when children are returning to school after the end of year break and for some children they will be starting Kindergarten for the first time. Whether new to school or returning, children are faced with a lot of changes and excitement as their journey in life continues.
It is natural for children to become upset and worried at times when they are separated from their caregivers or when encountering unfamiliar people. This is a helpful emotion as our children are considering their own safety and are aware of potential situations. This allows them to explore their world with care.
However, such anxiety can be problematic when it is overly distressing for a child or if it limits their safe exploration of their environment. For example, remaining distressed for extended periods of time or avoiding school can cause ongoing problems.
It is important to encourage engagement and independent curiosity and exploration in safe environments such as school. To help your child feel comfortable in situations where they should feel safe, such as school, try the following techniques:
- Minimise the emphasis of your goodbyes by making them brief and calm, but still loving and supportive.
- Inform them that you are leaving and the time that you will return. But try not to be excessive with the reassurance you provide.
- Awareness of your own emotions, body language and the messages you are sending your child is important. It can be very difficult to see your child distressed, but they can gain strength from us by seeing that we are relaxed and comfortable with where they are staying. A happy expression on your face shows your child that everything will be ok.
- Normalise your child’s worries by letting them know that many children get upset when leaving their parents and that it is ok for them to be upset. Follow this by emphasising the fun things they will do at school, which they can tell you about when you pick them up.