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Never Sneak Out: Preschool Separation 101


By Ann Zarider, M.Ed

Director, Early Childhood Program, Shames JCC
8/18/2017

Original article published in The Rivertowns Enterprise.

Helping your child separate from you to begin preschool is a learning milestone, even if you’ve both had previous experience “saying goodbye.” Depending on the child’s development, previous separation experiences, and your feelings about leaving, the process can be lengthy and daunting, or easier than you thought.

To ease the process, parents and teachers can work together to create a bridge between home and program. As a longtime early educator, I have found that when a parent feels comfortable in the school environment, the child often will as well.  The building of a relationship between parents and teachers is the foundation for the child’s positive experiences in school.

Here are some helpful guidelines that I share with new preschool families:

If you have the opportunity, show your child their new school or classroom in advance of the first day.  At the Shames JCC we provide an opportunity for children to visit our classrooms and meet their teachers the day before school.

Especially if this is your child’s first school experience, a parent or caregiver should be available to stay at school until the classroom teacher says otherwise. If not needed in the classroom, the teacher might direct adults to a designated waiting area.  Here, seating and refreshments will be available, and you will have the opportunity to meet other parents.  The staff will inform you when it is appropriate to leave.

Never leave the classroom without saying goodbye to your child.  Do not ask your child for permission to leave. Reassure him or her that you will always come back.  Do not linger.  Yes, there may be tears, but think of them as symbols of your child’s healthy attachment to you.  It is necessary for children to be allowed to express their emotions.

Parents should NEVER sneak out in order to avoid a scene.  It may be easier for the adult, but it truly isn’t easier for the child or their teacher.  It can make future separations more difficult because your child will fear your unexpected departure and try to keep a closer eye on you.  Sneaking out is in direct opposition to the trust that you are trying to build.

Please work with the classroom teachers and listen to their suggestions.  They have the experience and training to make your child’s adjustment to school as easy as possible.  They may ask you questions about your child’s routines at home in order to get to know them better.

And lastly, remember that any anxiousness during separation is usually a reaction to a new experience.  As your child begins to build relationships and connections at school, they will begin to build trust in their new school environment.

Learn more about the JCC Early Childhood Program HERE.