The tears. The pouting. All of the dramatics. I am pretty sure many of you have experienced this with your child when dropping them off at school. I know I’ve experienced it a few times. With my 3 year old ‘Ailani, things started out perfectly fine. She absolutely LOVED her first day at preschool. She absolutely LOVED the second day at preschool. As a matter of fact, the entire first 2 weeks went perfectly fine. She was super excited for me to drop her off at school in the morning and couldn’t wait for me to leave so she could jump right into playing with her friends. Then, overnight, it all changed. I am not sure what changed her mind but she woke up one morning and refused to go to school. She came up with every excuse in the book to not go: “I don’t feel well,” “It’s too cold outside,” “I don’t think you have enough gas in your car.” The list of excuses goes on and on but I somehow got her to get ready and in the car to get to school. When I walked her into her classroom and took her coat off, she just lost it. She started crying. She begged me not to go. She made me feel sad and guilty for even bringing her there. So, I ended up sitting there with her for nearly an hour trying to get her to calm down and understand that I really needed to get to work but I would be back very soon to get her and bring her home. This continued for about 2 weeks. Needless to say, I came in to work late every day for about 2 weeks. I knew this could not go on. I had to get down to the bottom of what the issue was, so I called a meeting with her teacher. We sat ‘Ailani down and came to the conclusion that she was just experiencing some separation anxiety as she started to realize that when I drop her off at school she doesn’t me again for quite a while. So the question was: how can we fix this? I needed to know what I could do to make ‘Ailani more comfortable at school. What could I do to make her not feel so sad when she is away from me? We brainstormed and came up with a few ides and within a week or so, we saw a dramatic change. I was back to being able to drop ‘Ailani off at school without all of the water works. I’m going to share with you a few of the things we tried to make this school thing a little less saddening.
- Family photo album- This was the first idea we came up with and the one that seemed to work the best for ‘Ai. Luckily we already had a small photo album that we filled with our family pictures that she could take to school and leave in her cubby. Whenever she started to feel sad or started missing me, Dad, or her baby sister, she could pull out her photo album and look at pictures of all of us. It provided a sense of comfort. If you don’t already have a small photo album, you can turn this into a project with your little one and put together a little booklet of your favorite family photos.
- Send child with one of your personal belongings- Now, I won’t recommend sending anything extremely valuable. In the event that it is damaged or lost, it is best to have something that can be easily replaced. For example, I sent ‘Ailani to school with one of my scarves I would wear a lot during the winter. She would always play dress up in it when we were at home so I figured this would be perfect. Plus, it had the faint scent of my perfume on it so it was comforting for her. If she lost the scarf or damaged it-oh well, with less than $10, I could purchase a scarf just like it from the Target down the street.
- Clock face with hands- ‘Ailani’s teacher suggested that we draw out a clock together and label it according to what happens at certain times so she could know when to expect my return. Not only was this a really fun project for the both of us, but it gave her a better understanding of the order of the day so it didn’t feel like she was just waiting forever for me to come back. She knew that right after naptime, I would be there waiting for her. Once she had lunch, she knew it was almost time for pick-up because nap was next on the clock and Mommy always gets her after nap.
These are just a few of the things that we tried and it actually worked. Now ‘Ailani is back to not even needing the photo album or scarf to make it through the school day. We still let her carry the clock and she even wears her Vtech watch to help her keep track of the time and when Mommy comes back. Have you tried something else that really worked in situations like this? Feel free to leave comments!