Friday, August 19, 2016

Tips for Handling Your Young Child’s Separation Anxiety

It’s back-to-school season.  The stores are filled with fall clothes, backpacks and lunchboxes.  Parents are busy gathering all of the things their children will need.  They also have the important task of helping their children to adjust to a new school year. Parents bringing their children to preschool or kindergarten often worry about both how their young child will react and how they will feel if their child tries to cling to them. Here are some hints for getting through separation anxiety:

Know that being anxious in a new setting is a normal human response.  If this is your child’s first time being dropped off or the first day in a school setting, anxiety about the unknown is a reasonable emotion.  Imagine being brought to a room where you know no one, do not know what will happen and people tell you, “Have fun!” Most adults do not enjoy attending events alone and entering a room full of strangers. Why would children be any less uncomfortable? Even children who have been to a school setting will encounter new teachers, different classmates and a new room. Some children simply find all of this “new” in their lives scary and overwhelming.  It doesn’t mean that they won’t adjust. 

Remember that separation anxiety is a common experience that can start and reoccur anytime during the early childhood years.   Separation anxiety is not only normal but is your child’s first opportunity to deal with fear and coping.  It is a healthy learning experience.  It can start on the first day of school or any time after that.  Some parents and children slide through the first few weeks of school anxiety free just to find that their children suddenly don’t want to leave them in October.   Some children start preschool at age 2 or 3 years old and become clingy the following year.  Children cannot express the cause of their increasing and waning emotions.  If you trust the adults who will care for them and the environment is positive and supportive, help your children to know that their feelings are acceptable and normal and they can bravely get through the day.

“School” is an abstract and unfamiliar concept to young children.  Visit with your children before the year begins so they know where they will be going.  Many schools will have an opportunity for your children to meet their teachers.  If there is no formal opportunity to do so, ask when you might stop by.  Visiting will give your child a frame of reference when you use that mysterious new word – school.

Talk about school by using positive words.  When you talk about school starting with your young child, the conversation should center on how the children will play, have fun, make friends and other happy experiences.   Do not prepare your child for being scared by mentioning crying or fear.  When a parent says, “There isn’t anything to be afraid of” many preschoolers will feel fear instead of happiness.  When we say, “Don’t cry,” they may be more apt to do so because… well… the adults are thinking there might be tears so maybe there is some reason to cry. 

And yet… don’t over-talk it.  Many parents have asked me when they should start talking to their children about school starting.  My advice is always that buying new items for school is exciting but talking about the actual event – the first days – is scary.  Save any discussion of school starting soon for a day or two before it begins. Simply put, adults tend to talk too much.  We think we are making them feel better when really we are creating anticipatory anxiety.  As a parent, I have sometimes had to admit that my need to talk about upcoming events in my children’s lives was more about my need and my anxiety than what would be the best strategy for them. 

Tell your child what you will be doing while he/she is at school.  Young children cannot imagine where you go when they are not with you.  It will help them to know what to expect and where you will be spending your time.  It is a good idea to explain to your preschooler that you will be saying good-bye and then going to work, shopping, etc.  When dropping your child off, repeat where you are going within earshot of your child’s teacher.  If you say, “I am going to work” or “I am going food shopping” in front of the staff, it enables them to tell your child the same thing that you’ve told him/her.

Avoid sneaking away at drop off.  Part of getting over separation anxiety has to do with trust.  Your child needs to trust you as well as their preschool teachers.  It is just as appropriate to say good-bye to a crying child as a smiling child.  The key is for the parents to smile throughout the experience.  If parents look sad or anxious, the child’s fears will be exacerbated.  They take their cues from you.

Keep your good-bye short, happy and do not linger.  Smile at your child even though he/she may be crying, say good-bye and leave.  If you linger, the message that you give to your child is that you don’t think he/she will be alright.  If you leave, you give the message that you are confident in the teacher and in your child’s ability to adapt.  Which message do you want to send?  Do you want your children to get a message that you believe in them or do you want them to get the message that you don’t think they can survive it.  If you want to send a message of confidence and capability, you have to leave.  Most preschools have a place where you can wait out of sight to find out if your child is calming down.  When you leave (and you do need to leave the building at some point), do not hesitate to call the school to find out how your child is doing.  Your child’s preschool staff should recognize that just because you physically leave your child, it doesn’t mean that you have emotionally left.  You are entitled to know how your child is doing at any point during any day.

Keep in mind that children cannot measure time like an adult and the statement “I will be back later” is meaningless to them.  Young children do not have a sense of time.  They measure time by activities.  Ask your child’s preschool for a sample schedule of the day.  Children will easily learn that their important adult returns after they play, have snack, go outside, listen to a story and do art.  Ensure that your child’s teacher has a fairly predictable routine.  The teacher should remind the children of the day’s activities that will lead up to your return.  In no time, many children will be able to recite the routine of their day.  That predictability gives your child the security of knowing when to expect you.  If they cannot predict your return, the day can seem endless.  When leaving say something that is absolutely true and concrete – and time words are abstract.  Say, “I will see you when I get back” or “Grandma will see you when she gets here.” 

Some children are less anxious quickly while others may take more time.  It is important to work in partnership with your school director or principal and classroom teacher to help your child feel comfortable, gain confidence and move beyond their separation anxiety.

For information for parents who are surprised by their child's lack of separation anxiety, read my follow up article -  http://cindyterebush.blogspot.com/2013/08/no-separation-anxiety-advice-for.html

________________________________________________________________________
You can learn so much more from me online and get 16% off until Sept. 30, 2016!**  
“Helping Preschools Achieve with Cynthia Terebush” – An Online Learning and Support Community for Early Childhood Professionals.  Now with individual memberships and staff bundles.  Check out my informational video HERE and go to Helping Preschools Achieve for more details. 

**This offer applies to new clients only.  This coupon is only for purchases on the Helping Preschools Achieve website and not for in-person presentations or consulting.  Use the code Sept2016 for 16% off of regular prices for 1 month.  The code expires on Sept. 30, 2016.  This code may be applied to membership bundles, school bundles and individually purchased courses.  Monthly membership bundle will be discounted for 1 month.  After 1 month, monthly membership will be billed at regular price.  This coupon code may be applied to more than one bundle or course.

And in person….Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual consulting for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.

Copyright 2016 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Lessons for Children from The Olympics: It’s Not About the Medal Count

There are so many lessons that children can learn from the Olympics. From a young age in today’s world, children understand producing a product.  Toddlers are asked to show off their latest tricks for excited family members.  They show everyone how well they can walk.  They begin to sing songs, show signs of logical thought and quickly develop an ability to pass adult tests of their knowledge.  They don’t need to know about the Olympic medal count – the product of the ability of the athletes.  They need to learn that it is a process.  Young children need to hear about the hard work that goes into being an Olympian.

Olympic athletes make it all look so easy. Children don’t understand the dedication that it takes to achieve greatness.  It is such an important bit of information as we watch the games.  When my children were young, we talked about the hours gymnasts spend in the gym and swimmers spend in the pool. We pointed out the sacrifices the athletes make in order to be the best at their sport.  Hard work is the root of success.

We wondered at the dedication it takes to power through setbacks, losses and injuries.  I like to talk to children about the athletes who have persisted.  Perhaps they were in the Olympics before but didn’t get the medal or had to overcome a hardship.  It is important that children know that everyone has tough times but they can be overcome. 

More than anything, the Olympics is a lesson in real life dreaming big.  Young children whose dreams for the future are so often filled with superheroes, magical princesses, knights and mermaids.  Here we have real life dreamers of dreams and heroes of dedication. 

When you watch the Olympics with your children or you talk to a class filled with preschoolers about these inspiring two weeks, teach them that it isn’t about the medal count.  It is about the people.  It is about how people can accomplish the most amazing things.


________________________________________________________________________
You can learn so much more from me online!  “Helping Preschools Achieve with Cynthia Terebush” – An Online Learning and Support Community for Early Childhood Professionals.  Now with individual memberships and staff bundles.  Check out my informational video HERE and go to Helping Preschools Achieve for more details. 

And in person….Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual consulting for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.

Copyright 2016 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dear HBO & Sesame Street Producers: Did you really fire Bob, Gordon & Luis?

Dear HBO & “Sesame Street Producers:

Is it true?  Did you really fire long-time beloved people – Bob, Gordon & Luis – from the cast?  I read the article “Sesame Street Axes One, Two, Three Favorite Human Characters” on nydailynews.com and I still can’t believe it.   I am hoping that it is somehow wrong. 

Your educational experts must know that today more than ever, children need to be learning from people.  Children need to be experiencing the verbal and non-verbal communication that only people can provide.  It is fun to watch non-human characters on television and other screens but only humans can teach young children about human interaction.  I have read research about the impact of screen time on the speech development and non-verbal communication skills of young children.  Take the people out of “Sesame Street” and you take an important learning tool from children.  The interaction of people on your show was one of its best features.

Children also need to learn that people older than them have value.  Older people can impart wisdom, can answer their questions and can be relatable.  I provide professional development for early childhood educators and I conduct parenting learning sessions.  In my experience, there is a universal feeling that children today do not respect adults and authority as they did in the past.  It is true that the past wasn’t perfect.  I do not agree with many of the discipline techniques of generations who didn’t know better.  I know that we are living in a better time because children are more than seen but not heard.  I do recognize however, that though children are treated more kindly today, families are spread further apart and children often do not get as much time with their elders to learn that they are important and should be honored.  The characters of Bob, Gordon and Luis on “Sesame Street” were fine examples of the value of experienced adults.

Yes, technology is a part of their world.  I know that it is wrong to fight the progress and adults must accept the role that technology will play in their lives now and always.  I have even written blog articles and provided interview information in an effort to get people to stop bemoaning the role of technology in their world and learn to work with it.  People, young and old, should be on their television shows modeling the responsible use of technology.  Surely, Bob, Gordon and Luis could model technological moderation, use of technology for research and other benefits. 

Please tell me that it isn’t true – or at least provide those of us who value developmentally appropriate practice WITH human, multi-generational interaction with a good reason for firing these people who have devoted their careers to our children.

Sincerely,
Cindy Terebush, CPC, CYPFC
Early Education Consultant, Speaker & Author
Certified Youth, Parent, Family Coach

________________________________________________________________________
You can learn so much more from me online!  “Helping Preschools Achieve with Cynthia Terebush” – An Online Learning and Support Community for Early Childhood Professionals.  Now with individual memberships and staff bundles.  Check out my informational video HERE and go to Helping Preschools Achieve for more details. 

And in person….Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual consulting for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.

Copyright 2016 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.