Saying Goodbye: Supporting Children with this Difficult Transition

Let’s face it.  As a parent, saying goodbye to your child for the day is never easy.  Most of the time, it’s harder on the parent than it is on the child.  However, this is never easy to remember when your child is clung to your leg crying and begging you not to leave.  You immediately fill your mind with guilt and sadness.  For young children, goodbyes can be an extremely emotional experience.  Starting between 6- 8 months old is when children can start experiencing separation anxiety.  It is at this time when children can understand that their parents are their main caregivers and can leave.  However, young children cannot understand the concept that a parent will return until later toddler years.   As disheartening as all this may sound, separation anxiety in children is completely normal.    Here are a few tips how teachers and families can help support their child with this transition and ease their fear.

Start Goodbyes Early

Start a routine with your child every time you have to say goodbye.   Make it short and sweet such as a kiss and wave goodbye.  You don’t want to drag out your goodbyes because this will only allow your child time to become emotional with this transition.   Even if you are running to the store and will be back within 20 minutes, make sure you properly say your goodbye.  The more often to leave with a proper goodbye, the easier and faster your child will start to understand separation.   The most important thing is NOT to sneak out!   This only confuses your child and now makes them worried what happened to you.  Inform your caregiver on your goodbye routine, that way when the breakdown starts, your teacher can immediately start their plan of action. 

Develop a Ritual

Make a goodbye ritual with your child, such as a high-five, fist bump, a special saying, or meeting them at the window.   A childcare teacher should do the same as they great the child in the mornings.  This will help your child understand it’s time for you to leave and start their day at school.  This also is a fun way for your child to look forward to drop-off.   

Get to Know Your Teacher

Try to spend a few minutes at drop-off and pick-up communicating with your caregiver.   It is your caregiver’s job to be communicating their day, what their successes were, and activities that are taking place within the classroom.  Your child will see this positive communication and will help them feel comfortable in their classroom setting.   You will also be able to implement these conversations at home to help remember all the fun that happens at school. 

Picture Displays/Keep Sakes

Provide a family photo for the classroom to display or something meaningful to bring from home to put in their cubby when times get tough.  Items could be their favorite stuff animal, your necklace, or your favorite book you read together.   Something so simple can help your child cope and get through the day with less anxiety. 

Be Timely

Picking your child at the same time consistently helps them not to worry that you may have forgotten about them.  This will gradually help with drop-off; your child will develop a trust that you will not leave them at school forever. 

Be Empathetic

You want your child to know that you understand how they feel.  Parents and caregivers sometimes feel that we are only making the child sadder if we empathize with them, so we try to distract them from their feelings by saying “It’s okay” or “You’re fine.”  This simply tells a child that their feelings are not appropriate and their feelings are not important to us.  The key is to talk to the children about their feelings and that it is ok to feel sad; value their feelings.  By explaining all the emotions that come with separation, we support their social-emotional development can strengthen their trust.  

Reassurance

Every parent has gone through this stage with their child.  It is such a horrible feeling and can flat out ruin the start to a parents work day.  To build trusts with families, caregivers can call or send an email to a parent to let them know how their child’s day is going.  This builds trust in the parent and reassures their child is in good hands while they have to be away.  Parents need to make sure that their child care facility has an open door policy, meaning they are welcomed into the center at any time, or call to see how their child’s day is progressing. 

Enjoying What Matters Most During the Holiday Season

When you hear the word holiday, what comes to mind?  If you’re like most, it’s shopping, cookie making, sales, house cleaning, scheduling gatherings, and meal preparations.  Trying to find the time to get all this done is beyond stressful and takes away from what matters the most, family joy and creating a deeper meaning for our children during the holiday season.

The key is to try and simplify!  Taking on too much will sabotage the true meaning, that warm feeling you want for your family.   First off, consider what you love most about your holidays, and then find what no longer aligns with your values.  Finding traditions that your family can cherish year after year will gain greater meaning for your children over the years.  It can be as simple as cooking the same breakfast together every Christmas morning or doing something for your community to help teach your children love and kindness throughout the year.  Here are a few holiday traditions to try with your family that might add more meaning this holiday season.  Don’t expect perfection!  Face it, when you have children that word doesn’t exist.  Don’t worry about getting it on social media either, just enjoy the time with your family.   

Rethink the advent calendar that’s filled with chocolate or toys.  Yes, this already is a loved tradition by many children but why not consider something different, something you can use as a learning opportunity.  One way is to do an act of kindness or participate in a charity every day.  Or try a book calendar.  Every night before bed, you can read a Christmas book to your child. 

Start a collection of special ornaments for the tree.  Each year, decorate your tree together with your family and as you unpack each ornament, you can share the story/memory behind each one.  These don’t always have to store bought.  Make an ornament together that expresses your child’s interests, talents or milestones.   Then as your children buy their own home, gift the entire collection to them so they can continue to the tradition with their family.

Give the gift of memories.  Why buy endless toys that your child will only play with for a short period instead of sharing an experience together that they be cherished years to come.  Try a family concert or show, music lessons, cooking classes, or a family get a way to the water park.  This is such a great way to create lasting memories.

Spend an evening walking or driving around the neighborhood to look at all the Christmas lights and decorations.  Pick out your favorite ones and just enjoy your time together talking about your day. 

Show an act of kindness by doing something for someone who might be alone during the holiday season.  Whether it’s your neighbor or an elderly relative, dropping off treats or a home cooked meal can bring so much joy to those.    

Get involved in a variety of charity events together as a family.Take part in your local food drive, soup kitchen, or Salvation Army bell ringing locations.

This year, try to embrace your family traditions and not worry so much about the little things.  Be reasonable and don’t expect every Christmas to go as planned.  Cherish your time with your family and enjoy the moments because they only last so long.   Spending time together is the most precious gift we can give to our children. 

Trick-or-Treat: Keep Your Kids Safe this Halloween

Halloween is a desirable childhood holiday; they get to dress up as their favorite character from a book or movie.  For weeks, your favorite super hero, princess, monster or witch has been anxiously awaiting trick-or-treat night, and I’m sure you are just as excited to see them show off their costume!  Having a safety plan will help keep the magic of Halloween night alive for many years to come.  Everyone loves a good scare on Halloween, but not when it comes to your child’s safety.  Here are some health and safety tips to keep in mind this year…

Dress appropriately.  Be prepared for the cold!  Even if your child can’t fully show off their costume because winter coats and hats are needed, your child won’t remember this; they will only remember they were warm and cozy.   However, purchasing a costume that is one size bigger can help with this so that layers can be added or removed as needed.  Just be sure the costume is not a tripping hazard.  Make sure everyone walking in your party has comfortable shoes.   The last thing you want to hear is “Mom, my feet hurt” and you’re only 10 minutes into the night. 

Be Seen.  With some creativity, you can add reflective tape to any costume or trick-or-treat bag to help be seen by drivers.  To add some fun to your walking party, pass out glow sticks and make sure to bring your flashlights with fresh batteries! 

Choose the Best Time and Location.  Having an early dinner and heading out right at dusk makes it easier to be seen.  Make sure your child uses the bathroom before leaving your house and only go to houses that have porch lights on as those are the houses prepared to pass out candy.  Talk to your child about staying with the group.  They will be so excited and will want to run from house to house, but reminding them never to cross the road without an adult and never cutting across yards or alleys. 

Crush the Sugar Highs.  ALWAYS make sure to inspect your child’s candy before eating.  Throw out all candy that seems to be opened or homemade.  It’s easy to overload on all those yummy treats, so be sure to remind your child about healthy habits.  Many dentist offices will have fun prize exchanges for candy this time of year.  If your child has an abundance of candy, teach your child about sharing.  You can take them to an assisted living center to share with the residents.  Even if they can’t enjoy the treats, I am sure they would still enjoy a visit from the children.   

Talk About the Culture.  Letting children know that not everyone celebrates Halloween by dressing up as their favorite charter.  This is a great time to discuss the meaning behind “Trick-or-Treat” and how other people across the world celebrate throughout the year.   Letting children know that not everyone can experience all the yummy candy and chocolates due to allergies or illness.  You can encourage children to think about other ways we can include those trick-or-treaters by passing out non-food items. 

Hoping these tips will help everyone have a FUN and SAFE Halloween!!!

It's Back....Cold and Flu Season!!!

It's Back...Cold and Flu Season!!!

It's October....Which inevitably means we are all once again becoming vitamin C-stocking, house-disinfecting, fever-fearing maniacs!  Our blood curdles with the ring of every phone, the sound of every sniffle and sneeze.  And the thing we fear the most during cold and flu season....OTHER PEOPLE'S  CHILDREN!!!!! AAAHHHHH! 

The fact of the matter is, while you will still most likely receive that dreaded phone call that your child is not feeling well and needs to be sent home from school or child care, you are not harming your child by exposing them to others, you are in fact, helping them.  Don't be discouraged.  Your child is getting what they need from school and child care.  I'm not just talking about early learning, social exposure and other skills that will help prepare your child for their future.  They are also building a and healthy immune system that will assist them in kicking those nasty cold and flu symptoms faster.  How is this possible?  Exposure to germs is essential to building their immune system and this means other people's children are not so scary after all!

Don't get me wrong...there is one thing that will make absolutely, positively, 100% certain that your child and everyone else's WILL get sick repeatedly: Ignoring or disguising signs and symptoms of contagious illnesses and sending your child to school or child care.  We get it...there are meetings that can't be missed, vacation days that have run out, plans that won't be rescheduled.  But, before you treat that fever with ibuprofen and send your child off to school or child care, ask yourself these questions...Am I prepared to get that dreaded phone call again next week?  And the week after?  And the week after that?

Hopefully, you and your child get that "home away from home" feeling every time you walk into your child care or school.  But when your baby or child is not feeling well....There is truly no substitute for their own home with their own family.  Keep them in their bed, in their jammies, in your arms.  There is no better medicine.