Michael Reisman, M.Ed.
Director, HCYMCA Early Childhood Education
And just like that September is upon us. Summer is waning and school is beginning. With that come the new schools, new classrooms, new teachers, new grades, new backpacks/lunchboxes and new schedules. Maybe you are reading this as the parent of a seasoned Kindergartener or elementary schooler. Maybe you are a first time parent dropping your baby off at the HCYMCA Child Learning Center for the first time. Likely you are somewhere in between, and your family is adjusting to the annual round of NEW. It can be overwhelming and challenging at drop-off time, especially if you are unprepared or unsuspecting of the challenge of separation at the classroom door. At the Hunterdon County YMCA Child Learning Center and Milford Preschool, we pride ourselves in our pursuit of child understanding during challenging times. We are ready and equipped to help you and your child successfully maneuver into each day with a healthy, predictable routine. Here are some valuable points of advice to consider as you wade through the waters:
· Create a night time and morning routine all about “getting ready” for school. Talk about the fun stuff they are “gonna get to do at school!” Play, friends, snack, stories and lunch are reliable key words to work into the conversation. Read stories at bedtime that acknowledge the questions of the first day of school. Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Misses Mama and Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand help ease the transition and normalize the process of separation.
· Develop a Goodbye Ritual for the preschool/childcare drop-off mornings. This ritual should begin at the home, maybe with breakfast, and, for older preschoolers, include empowering responsibilities like putting the lunchbox in the backpack and setting it by the door. Feeding the dog/cat/iguana (if applicable) or watering the house plants are also examples of feel-good jobs that children can do. Empowering and entrusting builds confidence, which is what you want your child to have to successfully drop-off. Make sure your ritual carries you through the separation. Secret handshakes, high-fives and hug/kiss routines work great. Say goodbye, and “I will see you when…” so the last thing they hear from you is your plan to return. Don’t sneak out when they turn their heads. Being sneaky teaches sneaky and betrays the trust you are trying to build.
· No matter what age your child once you say goodbye, go. Don’t look back, linger, or try to sneak peeks. This potentially adds insult to injury when you are trying to get out the door. Productive options include crying in the admin office, crying in your car, requesting a supportive escort out of the building, requesting email photos and phone calls to let you know your little one is adjusting. At the HCYMCA preschools you are welcome to call and check up on your child whenever you’d like. We are always happy to check on them.
· Acknowledge your feelings of apprehension or anxiety as your own, distinct from your child. He or she will pick up on those feelings and translate them as information to heed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, guilty or nervous about your child’s drop-off, you are welcome to talk those feelings out with school leadership. But when you are with your child, especially during separation, you must exude confidence and positivity. You chose your preschool center for a number of reasons, and you must remember and rely on those reasons to push you through the separation in a manner that gives your child the best opportunity to be successful. Feel your fears, acknowledge theirs, but don’t make yours theirs.
· Please allow your child to cry when they are upset. As a parent, I understand how heartbreaking (or sometimes even embarrassing) it can be seeing your child really let it out at drop-off. But saying, “Stop crying,” “Don’t cry,” or “You are fine/okay. You don’t need to cry,” shows disregard for their very legitimate feelings. It also shames them, which is counter to what you are trying to accomplish when you order them not to cry. Transitions and changes are hard for children, but they are essential learning experiences, and crying is a healthy expression of attachment to you. Why would you every want to undermine that? You can simply say, “I am sorry you are so sad. I love you and will be back at the end of the day.” Then turn and go. Your child’s teachers are experienced, educated caregivers who know how to help children cope with goodbye.
And on that note, here’s legendary New York Giant, Rosy Grier to back me up
Congratulations on making it through another summer.
Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA. firstname.lastname@example.org 908-483-4623
For information regarding Round Valley Child Learning Center Programs call 908-236-0055, ext. 4605. For the YMCA Milford Preschool, 908-995-8107