Children go through various stages. The ones that happen in their earliest years tend to be the easiest since they have parents who are always by their side guiding them through changes. However, when kindergarten starts, the children are expected to, for the first time, do some things independently from parents and family. The thought of unknown can make even mature adult people feel nervous, so children separation anxiety shouldn’t be considered as something abnormal. It is important for parents to keep an eye on symptoms like crying, tantrums and clinginess in this period, and pay attention to potential intensification and persistence. Even if you don’t find a reason to worry, you should still approach this sensitive period in children’s development with care.
Recognize the Problem
To be clear, some kids will express their fears in a very obvious way. They will cry or have a tantrum when you’re leaving them in the kindergarten, and you will know that you have a problem. But what happens when your child acts perfectly normal when in house and shows anxiety only when in kindergarten? The easiest way to recognize issues in kindergarten is to visit the school and discuss about it with employees and psychologists.
Be Open about the Experience
It may seem hard to believe, but conversation is usually the simplest solution for most of the problems people face during their lifetime. It is very important to talk about the experience and be open and direct about feelings your children may be going through in this decisive period. Be a good listener, and don’t look down on their fears and doubts. It would be useful to mention your own experience, and talk about fun and exciting things you’ve been through in kindergarten.
Foster Their Independence
Let us be honest; parents have separation anxiety too, and sometimes it is very difficult for them to let go. Fostering independence in children can be useful for parents as well. Encourage children to perform some simpler tasks on their own and give praise when they complete them successfully, but don’t expect perfection. Introduce new responsibilities one step at the time, and by the time the first kindergarten day arrives, they’ll be willing to actively participate in all activities.
Help Them Look on the Bright Side
This is a good way to approach every fear your children might have. Help them realize the benefits of kindergarten and see it as a place where they will go to play with other kids, learn new and exciting things, and have fun. Eventually kids learn to accept and love the numerous benefits offered by an early learning centre, such as dance classes, great playground designs, sports, abundance of toys and activities, etc. They just need a little push in the right direction so that they actually believe that there is no reason to be afraid.
Children’s books are a fantastic source of new knowledge and many of them were written in collaboration with children’s psychologists who have experience in dealing with such issues. Every bookstore has at least a few books about this topic. Kids love listening to fantastic stories they can identify with and imagine themselves living through such fantastic experiences. You can even write a short story with your children as characters and ask them to help with the storyline, so they feel even more excited and involved in the whole process.
Children learn about the world through playing, and they use play to manage fears, set expectations and build self-confidence. Act out situations they can encounter in kindergarten, such as asking a new friend to play, asking to go to the bathroom, dancing, raising your hand, asking a question, playing games, etc. Also, pretend to do things that a teacher does, so that when children are encountered with similar circumstances, they feel confident instead of nervous.
Last, but not least, stay calm, since this can be a difficult experience for you too. Your anxieties and worries can rub off on your kids. Discuss your concerns with your friends who are going through the same thing and act confident when your children are around.