Tips for Separation Anxiety at Nursery
Is your child anxious about starting nursery?
Childhood anxiety¦it's a thing¦so is separation anxiety!
It is vital for the health and well-being of your child to recognise separation anxiety, as it is a form of anxiety requiring help and support. Anxiety is an emotion with the sole purpose of helping us deal with the world around us.
Signs of separations anxiety include:
1) Being very clingy.
2) Retreating to a corner or hiding under furniture.
3) Having difficulty settling back to a calm state.
4) Finding it distressing to be in their own bedroom
5) Being reluctant to go to sleep
6) Wetting or soiling the bed.
7) Experiencing toileting accidents in the day.
8) Refusing to go to school: even if your child likes school and their friends.
9) Complaining of physical sickness such as a stomach-ache just before or at the time of separation.
10) Fearing something will happen to a loved one.
11) Worrying that they may be permanently separated from you.
12) Having little appetite or picking at and complaining about food.
Starting nursery can be a source of anxiety. Stacey Turner, author of I'm Going To Nursery, offers a helping hand:
The most important part of your child starting nursery is forming a healthy attachment from the very beginning. It's OK to let your child's nursery know you are worried, they will understand and some nurseries have a settling-in program. They know that your concerns are out of protection of your child and they are just as keen to see your child settled and happily enjoying the nursery environment, making friends and trusting the teachers.
You can prepare your child by talking about nursery, introducing books such as I'm Going to Nursery, which offers reassurance that there is no threat and helps bridge the gap of communication if your child is still quite young.
Stay and play sessions are a lovely way for you to reassure your child and I recommend arranging introductory visits gradually increasing to a half or full day.
You can send in a transient object of yours, I once sent Molly into nursery in a light sparkly scarf wrapped around her that I'd slept in so she had my scent, she loved walking around in it all day pretending she was a fairy!
You might consider putting together a sensory box with items to meet the sensory needs, such as soothing music for the ears, a squishy tacky ball for touch, photos for the eyes and maybe a little pack of raisins for taste.
Saying goodbye is the bit all parents dread! You can confidently guide your child with your goodbye, demonstrating that you trust your child's teachers by establishing a little goodbye routine. You might like to start by getting down to your child's level, looking in the eye's and in a friendly manner and soft controlled tone, start your goodbye. You could create this bit together, have a secret little song or saying! In whatever way you say your goodbyes, it is important you are specific with your details yet offering comfort, such as: "I can see you feel upset we are going to be apart, it's OK to feel the way you do. Let's find your teacher and let him/her know you feel upset." In front of your child, say to that person: "Molly is feeling upset at us parting, but she understands I need to leave, can you please support her and help her feel OK about this?" Then say to your child: "Mummy must go now, I will be back to pick you up and I want to hear all about your day and your teacher knows how you feel and is here to offer you support, I will be back later - goodbye."
On some days, no words may be necessary but a secret, for example, closing your eyes with a little nod of the head and a smile can be enough. The teachers will be ready to help with any upset and please let the teachers know if you feel you may become upset.
I'm Going to Nursery is not just a children's picture book, it's a guide for parents/carers to support their child. It nurtures the family through a time of change, as will I'm Going to School.
Our children don't have to struggle, they can learn and build confidence, trust and resilience to become happy and confident adults.
Stacey Turner is a Children's Mental Health ambassador and champion for a positive step forward in highlighting children's anxiety/separation anxiety. Stacey is also a parent to two young daughters and a former teacher. She lives in England and is originally from Australia.
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