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Sara Peronto
BY Sara Peronto
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6 Classroom Tips to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Children with Special Needs

Child care drop off can be difficult for children and their parents, but it may also create a challenge for child care teachers.  As the teacher, it is your responsibility to make sure every child you are caring for feels safe and comfortable in the classroom.  This can be difficult when dealing with a child who is experiencing separation anxiety.  If you work together with the child’s parents, however, you can quickly establish a secure routine for drop off that works for everyone.

Here are some tips to help ease separation anxiety in the child care classroom:

1. Make sure the child is prepared ahead of time

When preparing to welcome a new child to your classroom, encourage her parents to talk to her about what to expect. She should be prepped for the morning routine, have an idea of how her day will go in the classroom and know an exact time when mom or dad will be back to pick her up.

If possible, schedule some time for the new child and her parents to visit the classroom beforehand.  Preparing for her first day should start about a week in advance.

2. Ask parents for background information

The parents should inform you of the child’s daily routine and any other relevant information that will help you provide the best possible care.  This could be insight into how the child copes with change or best methods for soothing her if she gets upset.  The more you know about a child’s personality and routine, the better you will be at helping her comfortably get through her day.

3. Ask parents to provide a comfort item. 

It may be helpful for a child to have a familiar item from home when transitioning into a new classroom environment.  This could be a favorite stuffed animal or blanket or even a laminated family picture that she can carry with her throughout the day.  Familiar items or family pictures can provide comfort when a child is feeling anxious or homesick.

4. Provide distraction.

Have activities ready to distract the child if she is upset after being dropped off.  Picture books work well as a distraction.  Have the child’s favorite book on hand and begin engaging her in the story as soon as mom or dad leaves.  It may be helpful to choose stories explaining that mom or dad will come back.  Examples include:

Oh My Baby, Little One     When Mommy and Daddy Go To Work

When Mama Comes Home Tonight     The Kissing Hand

Don't Forget I Love You     When Papa Comes Home TonightI Love You All Day Long

5. Give the child a little extra TLC.

If a child is very upset when mom or dad leaves, she may just need a little extra attention.  If the child is a baby, holding her close or carrying her in a baby sling should help to calm her.  An older child may just need more one on one, like an extra hug or time to sit down with you alone to read a book or play with blocks.

6. Engage the child in an art or writing project.

An older child may enjoy making a special art project for her parent(s).  Encourage her to think of mom or dad’s favorite things, like a bouquet of flowers, the family pet or the color blue.  Have materials ready for her to draw a picture or create an art project that she thinks her mom or dad will love.  She will be distracted and excited to surprise mom or dad when she gets picked up.  Similarly, if the child is old enough have her write or draw pictures of her feelings.  This will help her better understand that she is sad because she misses her parents, but they will be back.  Have her draw a picture of her mom or dad picking her up from child care.

Saying “goodbye” can be difficult but with the proper preparation, any child can find comfort in the classroom.

Sources

Rotolo, Heather and Sarah Wittmann. “Separation Anxiety.” Kohl’s Building Blocks Program. Penfield Children’s Center. 26 February 2014. Web.http://penfieldbuildingblocks.org/2014/02/separation-anxiety/.

“Transitioning to Day Care.” Kohl’s Building Blocks Program. Penfield Children’s Center. 2 October 2014. Video.  http://penfieldbuildingblocks.org/2014/10/transitioning-day-care/.


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Sara Peronto

Written on October 27, 2014 by:

Sara Peronto is the Marketing Manager for Penfield Children’s Center, a nonprofit in Milwaukee, WI that serves children with special needs through physical, occupational and speech therapies, a behavior clinic and an accredited early education and care program. Sara is the Editor of PenfieldBuildingBlocks.org, an educational online resource that provides how-to articles, tips and videos for families. This website is part of the Kohl’s Building Blocks Program, which helps give Penfield children access to early educational and developmental services and equipment.
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