If we´re guilty of being great parents… great! The only down side of having spent an amazing time with our babies at home is that the first days of daycare or kindergarten could be somewhat challenging! The transition from being together the whole day to spending half of the day apart, can cause a natural feeling of separation anxiety for children and parents. Although this feeling is normal and necessary for the emotional development of both, there are some mindful techniques that can be practiced to lessen the anxiety for when the time of saying “see you later” finally comes.
I gathered the following mindful techniques as my son and I are currently going through this transition. He began going to Kita (a type of daycare in Germany) just this month. I knew this process was not going to be easy, so I spoke to pedagogues, caretakers and experienced parents in search of their suggestions. After some trial and error, I found that these ten techniques have not only have helped my son and I through this process, but they have also brought us closer… in unity, like we would say in yoga.
I´m very happy to share them with you, hoping that some or all will help you as well:
1. Read to your little one a story related to the first day of Daycare/Kindergarten.
Children´s books are a great way to “see the big picture”, from beginning to end, relating reality with an encouraging, easy to understand story. As a suggestion, my son and I read “Leo Lausemaus didn´t want to go to Kindergarten”, but there are also many other great books related to the subject.
2. Build together a family (and pets) photo collage.
I thought this would be contra-productive as the collage would remind my son of home, maybe making him more upset. However the pedagogue at my son´s Kita explained that this technique is widely used as a comforting tool to reassure young kids that their loved ones are there even if they can´t see them in person. It also encourages communication and bonding between the kids and their teachers, as they go over the photos together.
3. Create a bracelet, necklace or any type of homemade jewelry that is safe and comfortable for your child to wear.
This is a great project that you and your little ones can share as a team. For example, they can help you pick out the color of the beads or the materials to use and you can explain to them the meaning of the bracelet as you create it. My son and I created a symbolic bracelet with the letters of his name and the colors of his country flags, which in effect let me explain his roots and practice his colors and spelling at the same time! It also became part of our good-bye routine which I will explain in the next points.
4. Help your kids pick out their own outfit and prepare their own bag for the next day.
A practice proposed by the Montessori pedagogy to encourage and empower children from an early age to make their own decisions and to learn to rely on their parents for guidance in their choices through constructive feedback (more so than just orders). If this is done one night before, this practice can also save you time and stress in the morning.
5. Together with your child, choose the “lucky” toy or book which they can take with on the first day.
Make this a fun contest where you place your little one´s favorite toys or books in a row in front of them and ask them one by one, why they would or wouldn´t take the toys/books to school. This is another great way to empower them with decision making while working on their communication skills and vocabulary! You can even go so far as to suggest to their teachers to talk about the toys/books that all the kids brought as a fun activity so kids and teachers can get to know each other even better.
6. Create a fun “see you later” routine - transform the sad “good byes” into a positive “see you later” routine.
There are many ways to leave your kids with positive energy…maybe through a shower of kisses, a super loud “Hi 5!”, a big swinging hug or a combination of all! You can also kiss your child´s toy or bracelet (which we talked about previously) and tell them that the kiss will stay there for the whole day, until you see them again. After that, it´s best not to hang around too much longer. A nice, fun quick see you later is always more effective and less painful for all.
7. Practice separation periods at a loved one´s house.
You can introduce short to longer separation periods at a time, by having your little ones stay with people they know and trust. This way they start getting used to the feeling of being safe even if you´re not around. Don´t forget to practice your “see you later” routine and adapt it to whatever works best!
8. Make a magic tour of the daycare facilities on their first day.
If it´s possible to stay with your child on the first day, use it to find all the wonderful things in their surrounding and don´t be shy to introduce them to their new peers and teachers. This helps in increasing your little one´s confidence and sense of belonging, making it easier for them to adapt to their new world.
9. Night time recap.
Guiding your little ones into recalling everything they did during the day, as well as asking them about their feelings, increases not only their memory, communication skills and vocabulary, but it can also build up the levels of trust and understanding within your relationship.
10. Begin a "Creativity Diary".
Keep your kids motivated by collecting together in a "Creativity Diary" their drawings, photos, art work or anything else they create throughout the year. You can review the album at the end of the year, to celebrate their development, as well as at the beginning of every school year, to encourage further creativity for their new diary!