Separation is Hard - for Parents too!
I'll never forget the day I ugly cried after dropping both of my babies off for their first day of daycare. It wasn't a pretty sight, but it was real. As someone who had spent over a decade working in early childhood education, I thought I had it all figured out. I carefully selected a quality program and felt confident in my choice. I knew my babies were in good hands. They were more than fine; it was me who wasn't. I cried for at least three hours and called the school more than three times on that first day, both times. Luckily, the experienced staff understood my anxiety-riddled behavior and showed me incredible grace.
The Overwhelming First Day
Many parents can relate to the worry that accompanies their child's first day with a babysitter, in daycare, or preschool. We make endless lists, devour parenting books, and meticulously prepare our babies for this new routine. We're so busy buying bulk diapers, labeling cups and clothes, and filling out endless registration forms that we barely have a moment to process the change ourselves. But when the doors close and the house or car becomes quieter, the reality hits us like a ton of bricks.
It Gets Easier
Let me assure you, it does get easier. As a parent of a 6 and 7-year-old (1st and 3rd graders), most mornings are relatively easy now, with fewer tears involved. Sure, we still have the occasional morning meltdown and refusal to get on the bus (today was one of those days), but overall, it's not as heart-wrenching as it used to be. Yet, no matter how challenging the morning may be, I know that we all breathe a sigh of relief when that school bus pulls away. However, what truly matters isn't just the fact that they're in (a quality) school; it's also the conversations we have with ourselves on those tougher days.
Tips for Navigating Separation Anxiety
Here are my personal tips for making it through those challenging days when you have to leave your kiddo(s) for the first time or on a hard morning in general:
Gradually Expand Your Comfort Zone - Instead of diving headfirst into separation, consider it a journey of preparation for both you and your child. If you're gearing up to return to work or need some solo time, schedule moments to leave your baby with a trusted family member. Start small and progressively extend these outings, mimicking your usual workday absence. It's a bit like leveling up in a game of parental self-care!
Forge Stronger Bonds with Caretakers- Beyond your immediate care, there's a team of grandparents, babysitters, and teachers ready to support your child. Engaging with them and sharing your anxieties can provide a profound sense of control over your separation anxiety. Let them in on your worries, and watch as they become partners in your parenting adventure.
Master the Art of Morning Routines- Picture this: You're sleep-deprived, emotionally charged, and racing against the clock to leave the house on time, with a relatively (un)predictable baby. It's a daily obstacle course! Consider your morning routine as your personal Olympic event. Give yourself some practice runs and be open to adjusting your strategy as needed. Remember, life – and kids – thrive on predicability but love to be unpredictable.
Free Yourself from Guilt - Feeling guilty about being away from your little one is perfectly normal. However, dwelling on that guilt can sap the joy from your time apart. Allow yourself the freedom to shed that guilt and stress. Embrace the moment and savor the time you have for yourself guilt-free.
Connect with Fellow Parents - You're never alone in this journey. Even the seasoned early childhood educator, like me (Paige), had her moments of doubt and tears. Reach out to other parents; they have a remarkable way of making you feel "normal." Exchange stories, tips, and strategies, and discover the unexpected support from your parenting community.
Share your own experiences and tips on coping with separation anxiety in the comments below! We're here to support you, and stay tuned for more advice on making farewells easier for all.
Cheers to a Happy New (School) Year!