Thoughts on Separation

(Excerpt from February Newsletter)

Another year starts at Mittagong Preschool and the familiar faces return, much discussion surrounding how much they have grown during the school holidays and then they quickly race off to reunite with friends from the past year.  Soon, the new faces start to arrive.  Some children bound through the gate, eager to meet their teachers, find their locker and explore the environment, almost ushering their family out the gate so they can start their day.  Others apprehensively step out of the car and walk in, seemingly wanting to go unnoticed, smiling politely as the teacher greets them but mostly just seeing unsure about the whole 'preschool thing'.  In some cases, starting preschool can mean tears, cuddles and reassurance from all obliging parties.  All of the above scenarios are perfectly fine and developmentally appropriate.  What teachers are acutely aware of during this transition process, is separation anxiety and how we can overcome these feelings of doubt whilst in partnership with the child and family.

One thing we know for sure is, that all relationships are built upon trust.  During the first few weeks at preschool, we aim to build this sense of trust and belonging.  By including family photographs within the new setting, we aim to form an immediate link between home and preschool, thereby creating a sense of comfort in a somewhat unknown space.  We also program based upon information provided within the enrolment forms - providing known resources and including interests forges a dialogue and encourages the children to talk about their home life, engendering an initial point of contact with staff.  Teachers intentionally include a belonging wall of the children's photographs within the space, a visual reminder that we now see the child as part of the preschool community.  We also intentionally create a routine from day one, so children know what is happening next, making their day more familiar.    


So, what can we do if children continually connect preschool with a sense of anxiety upon separation?  It is important we create a farewell ritual with the child, as this creates a sense of predictability.  As the parent you may decide to read one short book before saying good bye, others may decide to do a drawing or watch their child go down the slide.  Whatever you choose, ensure this ritual is maintained as this will subconsciously says to the child that mum or dad is going soon.  Sometimes a brief good bye is the best good bye.  An item from home can also provide that needed connection with the familiar - never underestimate the power of a teddy bear!  Talking positively about preschool is also a step in the right direction.  Furthermore, literacy is a powerful tool to convey complex messages.  Reading a story about what children are going through, allows them to identify their feelings and know it is okay to feel this way about separation.  Some fantastic titles to use as a discussion point are:

I'll always come back! By Steve Metzger 

The kissing hand By Audrey Penn 

Maisy goes to preschool By Lucy Cousins (discusses a preschool routine and some experiences)

In my heart: A book about feelings by Jo Witek 

Know that transitions to new environments can cause in-trepidation, but how we deal with these changes, really makes a big difference in the child's overall sense of comfort.  For more information I have listed a few web links.

Michelle Hinton

(Early Childhood Teacher - Koala room Monday/Tuesday)