Easing the Morning Transition
By Lauren Ross – Family Star Mental Health Consultant Dropping off your child at school in the morning can sometimes be a hectic and stressful affair. You are rushed to get to work, sometimes your child is feeling particularly clingy, tearful, or defiant. "No, I don't want to change my shoes!" or "Mommy, please don't go...." How is this daily transition going in your family? How does this affect how you start your day? Or how your child starts his or her day? Separation anxiety begins to emerge for young children around 8 months of age, and this natural developmental phase may contribute to your child’s difficulty with morning goodbyes. According to the Zero to Three website: “Starting at around 8 or 9 months, babies may become upset and fearful when separated from a loved one. This happens because babies are beginning to understand that people still exist even when they can’t see them. So they naturally protest to try to make their special person stay.”
Here are some ideas to help make this a smoother transition for you and your child: • The separation starts at home: Think about how your morning typically goes at home. If you’re like most families with young children, getting out of the house on time is often a rushed and stressful process. What are some ways to make it a bit less stressful? Some families find that preparing the night before can make the morning run much smoother. Check the weather report and lay out appropriate clothes for your child. Have shoes and outerwear ready to go by the door. Prepare anything you need for your work day as well. In the morning, wake up early enough to avoid rushing. Talk about your day with your child and be positive and upbeat about all the things to look forward to in your day. • Create a goodbye ritual/routine: Children thrive on predictability and routine. Having a special ritual for morning drop-off can help make this a smoother and happier process for your child AND for you! Routines don’t need to be elaborate: just think of a few steps that are meaningful to your child and remain consistent. For example: (1) During the bus ride to Family Star, read a book to your child and talk about your day; (2) Walk by the playground on the way into school and wave at the sandbox; (3) Say good morning to the staff person at the front desk; (4) Walk quietly into the classroom and say good morning to the teacher and friends; (5) Put on slippers, then give a hug to mom or dad and wave goodbye at the window. It’s very important to NOT sneak out of the classroom. Be sure to say a real goodbye to your child. • Be aware and sensitive to the Montessori environment: Your child’s teacher has worked very hard to create a warm, quiet and prepared space for children’s learning. As you enter the classroom, children who have already arrived are busy at work: babies are focused on the mobile, a toddler is working with a puzzle, and the older child is concentrating on stacking blocks. Help your child transition quietly into the classroom – you can help prepare as you’re walking in the front door of Family Star, by speaking in a soft voice to your child and starting the goodbye process. “Mommy will be back to get you after school. You’re going to have a wonderful day! Now let’s go get our classroom slippers on.” • Read books about saying goodbye: If your child continues to struggle with morning transitions, here are some good books that you can find on the Free Spirit website: o Ready for the Day! A Tale of Teamwork and Toast, and Hardly Any Foot-Dragging, by Stacey R. Kaye. o Bye-Bye Time (board book), by Elizabeth Verdick.