It is very common for children to go through separation anxiety, especially when they are entering care outside the home for the first time. It usually occurs between 8 months through 1 year. In our Infant classroom I have noticed that the children will cry when the parent begins the separation process but once I take the child into the classroom and they see their friends and works they typically stop crying.
Parents often ask me “Should I leave or should I stay until they calm down?” My advice is “Make sure you say goodbye to your child with a hug or kiss and then it helps the child to separate immediately afterwards. This allows for the teacher to be able to comfort the child and begin to build a trusting relationship with them. I invite parents to stand outside the door and usually your child will settle into their environment within a few minutes”.
In Montessori we have materials that help the children learn that even though your mom and dad leave and you cannot see them they are still there even when you physically can’t see them. One of the object permanence works is a box has a hole in the top and you drop the ball in it. The ball can no longer been seen until the child opens the drawer and finds the ball inside. This builds the connection between the parent leaving and cannot be seen anymore until they return later in the day.
Separation anxiety can reappear after a long break. Parents can try to ease their child’s anxiety by prepping the child by talking them through the steps of what will happen. Even if your child is young or non-verbal still talk them through the steps, they do understand. This is very important if your routine is about to change. If you see that they start to become upset remind them of the next step that will occur and reassure them. For example, “remember we are going to take off your jacket, then we will ring the bell and then you will enter the classroom with Ms. Kontilo.”
In our school we have play dates where the children get to visit for a short period of time to provide the opportunity for the child and the parent to become familiar with the teacher and the environment. Separating from your child can also be stressful on the parent who feels torn leaving their crying child in the morning. Communication between the teacher and parent is key during this time so you are able to be kept updated about your child’s comfort level in the environment.