It is the beginning of the year. Children all over Singapore started their new year in various local schools. This year marked the milestone of my 2 yr old going to school. I was amazingly surprised at how ready he was to go to school when I asked him several times.
As he was the youngest, I was not in a hurry to put him away in school.
The experience in the first week brought back memories of how his older siblings went through separation anxiety.
My youngest did not even look back when he said "Bye" to me. But according to his teacher, in only an hour, he was looking for me and tearing as if his mum would never come back.
I could totally identify with his anxiety as there was no familiar caregiver to lean on. The environment was also new. Even though the teacher brought him to his older sibling in pre-kindergarten, this did not comfort him.
Surviving my children's separation anxiety means :
1. Tackle the separation anxiety within myself
I was very anxious when my first child went to play school. I did not understand how a young child feel. Eventually, I discovered that if I want to help the child to settle in a new environment, I had to be strong myself emotionally.
2. Understand the child's temperament to decide whether to take it slow or to leave the child to cry
My eldest started preschool at 16 months. He was crying so much that no amount of reassurance could stop him. He finally settled at 24 months. On the contrary, the rest who started later adjusted in two weeks or less.
3. Give a familiar object to bring to school
This helps so much to ease separation anxiety for my children.
4. Separate at appropriate age
I noticed that my subsequent children did better than my eldest. I believed it was the age in which they started school as mentioned before. It was easier to talk to them as their linguistic ability and understanding improves.
5. My need vs the child's needs
I needed time off when I was pregnant with another child. This meant leaving the child with another caregiver helps. It was hard but I realised children are so resilient and adaptable like us and understood mums' needs as much as we understood theirs.
6. Give plenty of reassurance
This cannot be overemphasised. I gave heaps especially after school.
7. Use older siblings to guide and encourage
My youngest did not want to join in the art activity in school at first. He was only staying up to 2 hours. When asked, he wanted to paint at home, not in school. I then showed him his brother's paintings which convinced him of the possibility of doing art in school.
8. Get a friend whom the child plays with to go to school together
This worked out so well for my eldest who had no siblings then.
9. Expect different personalities and adapt to the method in which the toddler was brought up as an infant
All of my children are different, with two being more able to cope with frustration than the others.
I therefore learnt to be more patient with the "less resilient" ones.
I also had different methods of bringing up the children when they were infants, two being breastfed and on demand (means more secure) while the other left crying. In addition, 1 out of the 4 was bottlefed and I felt less strong bonds compared to the rest. I thus discovered that when they were going through crisises in life such as this, I had to help in accordance to the ways they were used to when they were infants.
10. Anticipate illnesses
As young children gather in the school to play, they get sick more easily. The illnesses affected me quite a bit as they interrupted the normal school going routine. However, I realised I could comfort the child better if I took him home.
All in all, I am still trying to help my 2 year old cope his separation anxiety. But I know it would be over all too soon and he would be on his journey to independence with plenty of love and support from home.
May you have a wonderful year with your children..