Toddlers develop a strong bond with their mums. Around 12 to 18 months, a toddler’s stranger anxiety is at its peak which means he will resist being with new caretakers or teachers by throwing tantrums, screaming, wailing or kicking anything in his way to fend off separation from his mother.
On the other hand, he is developmentally ready to go to play school. But as a mum, you will find it hard to wean your fussy ward away from constantly tugging at your bottoms. Though it appears to be a tough job to get an obstinate toddler to attend playschool, we have some tried and tested ways to help you tackle a toddler’s anxiety of leaving home for the unknown outside world.
We have used playschool as an illustrative example of dealing with separation anxiety. You can use the suggested strategies in other separation anxiety situations as well, with a little tweak here and there. As you go along, you will discover your own ways of adjustment which work for you and your little one to face other separation anxiety provoking situations.
Common causes of separation anxiety
A child’s developmental sequence of experiencing stranger anxiety peaks between 12 to 18 months of age. Thus, he is vary of any strangers who approach him and starts to cling to his mother.
Marked attachment of child towards his mother, for security and comfort will not allow a separation from her. He will resist it with all his might.
A toddler feels in control of his environment when he follows a fixed routine. A sudden change in this routine upsets the child so much, that he cries for comfort from his mother.
His need for constant attention gets him unsettled when he discovers his mother has gone missing from the scene.
When he is sick and his mother has to go out for her work or on some errands, a toddler will become whiny and cantankerous.
The toddler lacks the sense of time. He may become inconsolable if his mother is late to pick him up for instance from the play school.
This list of common causes of anxiety will help mothers take necessary action in advance and avoid upsetting her ward as far as possible.
How to prepare for separation (example of playschool admission)
1. Familiarise your child to the play school a few days in advance.
Let him explore the playschool environment with you, meet the teacher and caretakers, play with the materials of his choice and watch other children at play.
1. Prepare your child about what to expect at play school.
Tell him it is all right to feel a little unhappy at a new school without mama. However there will be loving teachers, other children and exciting play materials to play with.
2. Begin a daily routine centered on the play school.
3. Tell him you will collect him after nap time at school, every day.
These will help your child feel in control of the situation and better prepared to face the playschool.
Initial days at playschool
1. As soon as you reach the playschool, reassure your child that everything is going to be all right.
2. Try not to feel guilty when you have to leave especially if he tells you not to go.
3. Keep your goodbyes short.
4. Have your own goodbye ritual which will calm and distract him.
5. Guide him towards a teacher or some play thing of his choice before you leave.
6. Do leave with your child a favorite toy or any familiar item from home as a pacifier in your absence.
Make judicious use of this strategy for obvious reasons!
Your child will stop crying as soon as you are out of his view. He had been crying as he did not want his source of love, safety and comfort to leave.
Do not hover around in anticipation of your child needing you, his teachers wil look after him. Before your final goodbye, remember to tell your child when you will be back, say after his naptime at play school.
Admit your toddler to a playschool after preparing him to the best of your abilities. Thereafter, see that the process of adjustment is gradual and according to your child’s pace. Keep consistency of behaviours, have a constant dialogue with your child and do follow ups with his playschool teacher to ensure a smooth adjustment of your ward.
With a little bit of situational modification, you can transfer these helpful strategies to tackle other separation challenges faced by your child.