Preschool Separation Anxiety

It. Is. Tough. It pulls at a parent's heart to have to leave their little one when they are obviously distraught and want nothing more than a little extra love. Overcoming these feelings of helplessness is a struggle for everyone. It is something that takes time and patience, which means it is probably going to repeat itself for awhile. Perhaps ten-fold sometimes. As a preschool teacher and former behavior therapist, I assure you that if your little one was to remain as upset as when you first leave, they would not be forced to stay at preschool.  Working through the feelings a bit at a time is necessary for the parent and child alike. As we all know, anxiety is eased with comfort. Comfort comes in all forms in this context: a warm welcome, the familiar environment, favorite toys, seeing sweet friends, etc. All of those things become comfortable to the child with time. It's the part where the kiddos have to first try to be open, while feeling overwhelmed because of all the new things all at once, that's the challenge and creates some anxiety. 

For parents new to this behavior, I like to suggest different ideas and see what they think would be best for them. It really does take a village and I whole-heartedly believe that consistency is key from everyone in a child's life. As a teacher for such young children, it is my job to keep every day as predictable as possible. This allows the children to feel like they have a handle on what to expect. For example, I can say that mommy will be picking them up after we have snack, go to the park, and then have lunch. As we do these things repeadtedly, they will begin to understand sequence of events, which can bring comfort knowing that what I say is reliable and true.

As aforementioned, parents know their child best and can usually determine what would help in the situation. Here are some suggestions for separation anxiety that I hope will provide some support:

- Short goodbyes and long hellos. The drop off routine should have the parent exuding  confidence while they quickly explain what will be happening until they see them again. Show affection and then leave with a smile on your face. Plan a return that allows for time to sit in the child's environment and give 100% attention to them. Ask about their day, have them show you things, and just give them love.

Practice runs. Pretend play is a favorite game at this age so use it to your advantage and play out the routine of the preschool day. Start with the morning prep to the pick up. 

Comfort item. Bringing a small item as a reminder of love can help a little one get through a rough patch. For some, it is a "lovie", while others would connect with a special sticker that dad gave them or a picture of the family. 

Talk about favorite parts of preschool. If a child gets excited about something, make it a big deal at home. This will soon start to have them looking forward to seeing/doing it again and being able to tell a parent about anything new that occurs. Help try to blend both school and home lives together for the children and keep communication open with the teacher so they can do the same.

Relate feelings. Use the opportunity to name some feelings they are having and reference past experiences. Talk about previous times both of you have experienced those exact feelings and how a transition occurred to become more positive. This is huge for emotional regulation and will help them start to grasp feelings and anxiety before they start to feel debilitating.

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School Has Begun

With a couple weeks under the school year belt, we are off to a great start. The first part of the year focuses on routines, getting to know each other, and getting a better idea of where each kiddo is on their own developmental path. All the other stuff falls into place as the year progresses. I must say that the inclusion of sign language into our day has been a positive tool for communication. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly they learn and feel such pride when they have mastered new words activities. Learning is easier when we don't teach in isolation, but rather, on the knowledge that they already have. I encourage parents to really look and incorporate the same things that we focus on at school, in everyday life at home. The newsletter I share gives parents the tools to continue the education at home while building on their baseline from preschool 

See our newsletter here!

Summertime

GrowthSpurts' summer camps are week-long sessions that focus all aspects of the curriculum on a single theme. The days include reading books, making crafts & projects, games, songs, and field trips that relate to the focus of the week. Children learn through play. The more ways that they are involved and engaged, the more likely they are to retain the knowledge. Small groups allow for all participants to be involved and contribute to each activity. These camps are also designed for families to pick and choose the weeks that work best for them and their vacations. For more information or any questions regarding camp, contact us at hello@GrowthSpurtsCDF.com or (209)602-8607. 

GrowthSpurts' summer camps are week-long sessions that focus all aspects of the curriculum on a single theme. The days include reading books, making crafts & projects, games, songs, and field trips that relate to the focus of the week. Children learn through play. The more ways that they are involved and engaged, the more likely they are to retain the knowledge. Small groups allow for all participants to be involved and contribute to each activity. These camps are also designed for families to pick and choose the weeks that work best for them and their vacations. For more information or any questions regarding camp, contact us at hello@GrowthSpurtsCDF.com or (209)602-8607. 

Spring Break Boredom Busters

 

Spring Break is a time where we get a small sample of what summer might be like with the kiddos. It’s a snapshot of how the kids find things they like to do for a little bit, then complain of their boredom after that. But, believe it or not, boredom for kids is a good thing. If we, as parents and teachers, are always stimulating them with our ideas, then they do not get the discovery of what genuinely interests them. True creativity and self reliance are skills that arise out of boredom. Yes, the littles will groan and gripe when something isn’t ready at the moment they are ready to move on from their prior activity, but know that it’s our job to guide them to problem solve. Let them be bored for a little while - it’s good for them. It’s hard in our society now to slow down but allowing them to get creative and have a say in how they are going to fix that problem is so important.

Even with toddlers, problem solving can be done with a little assistance. It is important to start with some descriptive words for boredom. Associate words with the emotion so they can communicate it with you in the future. Explain times you have felt that way - give your perspective of the emotion. Then construct it into a positive activity by asking questions about what they want to do. Be careful not to lead the child to answers or go through this learning experience too quickly. In due time, ask questions about where they would like to be for their next activity, would they like to create something or look at something, do something alone or with someone else. These questions will not only assist with boredom (which is totally okay) but will aid with decision making and problem solving in the future. 

Here are a couple ideas that are easy to do because there is not too much prep or clean up. I made sure to balance them out and have a variety of options. I hope there are a few that your kids will enjoy . . .

  1. Outdoor Paint with Water: All you need is water. If you have brushes or sponges, that can be used as well. Get creative and use things like twigs, leaves, and rocks to create a beautiful painting on the sidewalk with just water and then let it evaporate and start again.
  2. Puzzle Piece Hunt: Who doesn’t love a good hunt? Use your favorite puzzles to hide the pieces and add fun to putting it back together. Let the kids decide the details of the rules: inside or outside? put the puzzle together after each piece is found or after all are found? work with friends or alone? etc.
  3. Nature Collage: Go on a nature walk around the house, down the street, or the local park and collect treasures along the way. Examine and describe all the things you see on the adventure. Be sure to touch on all five of the senses. Then decide how you want to display the treasures. Should a poster be made? Should they be glued to a piece of paper and displayed that way? Can they be incorporated as pieces of a favorite game?
  4. Rainbow Crayons: Sort through old broken crayons and assign the kids the task of peeling off the paper. Take the opportunity to let them strike up conversation while this is happening. Move the task outside and enjoy the sunshine. Then the broken pieces can be matched with color schemes of your choice in cupcake liners. Throw them inside muffin tins and put them in the oven at 300 degrees, checking on them every 5-10 minutes until they look melted enough for your liking. When they all look liquified, pull them out and let them cool.