The start of a new year brings out a whirlwind of emotions, not just for adults but for children too! Your child might be embarking on a new journey at a different childcare centre or transitioning to a new room. This period is filled with excitement and jitters, as they navigate fresh friendships, unfamiliar spaces, and changes in their daily routines. It can indeed be quite overwhelming. As your little ones settle into their new environment, it’s not uncommon to witness tears and separation struggles, which can tug at your heartstrings and leave you questioning your decisions. At times, you might even contemplate keeping them home to shield them from the tears. You, as the parent, know your child best and should trust your instincts. However, for most children, separation challenges are a natural part of their growth and development, and with time, they will subside.

So, how can we assist our children during these separation struggles?

Don’t Rush

Organise your mornings to allow for 5-10 minutes of quality time with your child during drop-off. Help them complete their morning tasks, and then engage in a specific activity together, such as reading a story or observing them play on the playground. This bridges the gap between home and care.

Farewell and Leave

If your child is happily engaged in play, resist the urge to sneak away. When they realise you’ve left without saying goodbye, it can heighten their distress and make future departures more challenging. Communicate your departure clearly, even with infants, and stick to your plan. For example, say, “We will read this story together, then I’ll give you a 10-second hug and go.” Once you’ve said goodbye, keep moving without looking back.

Offer Choices

Providing children with choices grants them a sense of ownership and control. Simple options like, “Would you prefer a hug or a high five over the fence today?”

Mentally Prepare

Assist your child in getting ready for the day by discussing the friends they’ll see, the games they might play, and the educators who will be present.

Team Up

Your child’s educators can be your most valuable allies during separation challenges. Share information with them. Let them know what activities your child enjoys at home and find out what engages them at the centre. Build connections between home and care by introducing a family photo or a book related to their current learning. Inquire about the plans for the next day, so you can talk about it at home.

Share the Timeline

As our little ones are still developing their understanding of time, it’s helpful to talk about the day’s events. For instance, “Mummy/Daddy will go to work, and we’ll pick you up at afternoon tea time.” Initially, it’s beneficial for your child to have something to look forward to, like a trip to the park or shopping for dinner.

Acknowledge and Plan

Everyone feels better when their feelings are acknowledged. Help your child create a plan for moments when they feel upset. This might include looking at a family photo, hugging a cuddly toy, or spending time with a special friend or educator. Encourage them to express their emotions through words.

Most children experience phases where they grapple with separation challenges, but they typically settle in with time. These are occasions when their emotions run high, often expressed loudly. Some children encounter separation difficulties when they start at a new childcare centre or transition to a new room, while others face such challenges during significant changes in their home life.

Our role is to support them to the best of our ability during these testing times and remember that they are in the process of developing independence, confidence, and life skills!