I’m a stay-at-home mum to a three-year-old girl. She has just this last week started attending a preschool setting. She only goes for three hours a day, twice a week. The first day she was there, it was ok. The second day, she needed longer cuddles. Today, it was an hour before I was able to leave.
I’ve been scouring the internet for how to deal with this. The best advice is “develop a routine – hug, kiss, goodbye, then walk away”. I’m sorry, but that sounds harsh, even to me. Of course the child’s going to still be upset. I think I’d be too.
All my closest friends know I’ve been struggling with this. Trying to figure out the right course of action. Just now, my eldest sister send me a message on Whatsapp, and the penny dropped. And I’m quite literally (well, almost) sitting here happily bashing my head against a brick wall over my stupidity. Now, mind, I’m not saying that all parents/carers are stupid…. but…. perhaps we need to look at this issue in a different way.
What my sister said, roughly, was this: Have you looked at this from your daughter’s perspective? You’re her primary carer. You are the person who she goes to for EVERYTHING, and she’s been doing this for over three years now. (Yes. That’s true. I get frustrated some days when she comes to ME to ask for water instead of asking Daddy….) So now. You are taking her to a strange place, with strange people, and you’re leaving her there. So what questions might be going through her mind? Let’s look at some examples:
- Who will change my nappy if it gets full or I do a poo?
- Where can I find water to drink?
- Who’s going to give me a snack?
- What if I hurt myself? Who can I go to for cuddles and a kiss (if required)?
- What if I get cold? Who can I ask for a jacket?
I know I’ve done it, and I’m sure countless others too… I think we completely forget that our little ones need to LEARN how things work outside of the home, how things work when Mommy (or Daddy or other carer) is not around. And how on earth are they LEARN unless we TELL them!?
We need to TELL our children who are scared of leaving us that “[this particular person] will help you if you need *fill in the blank*”. We need to do a proper handover of the carer position so that they know who they can go to. Not just assume that they will attend nursery/preschool/kindergarten and be happy.
I’m not saying this is THE solution to separation anxiety, don’t get me wrong. But I DO think that this is probably a HUGE part of where our children are having issues, and it is such an easy fix it’s ludicrous. I can even recall doing a similar handover previously, at least a year ago, just chatting to my daughter in the car. And if I recall, I was effectively dismissed on arrival, without so much as a hug, let alone a goodbye!!!
I have yet to speak to my daughter. She’s in bed for the night. But tomorrow I plan to have a chat with her. I will apologise to her that I don’t think I’ve understood what she’s been scared about. Then I’ll ask her if this is what her worries have included. And next time I take her to preschool, I will do a proper handover. I’m betting it’ll go a long way to solving the problem.