It's back to school and for some of you, separation from your children has been quite natural, maybe your child is enrolled in a daycare, or maybe they frequently spent time away from you with extended family or friends. For other families, you may be experiencing prolonged separation for the first time, and it can bring up many different emotions!
The bond we have with our children and loved ones is called “attachment.” These close relationships allow us to have the courage and confidence it takes to go out into the world and learn new things. When it comes to spending time apart, here are some ways to build secure, healthy attachments with your child:
Make a plan. Children want to know what is coming next in their lives. Let your child know what will happen in their day and make a plan for what you will do when you come back together. For example: “Today is Head Start day! You will go to school on the bus, and then when you come home, we will have lunch together.”
Something Special. Children may miss their families throughout the day, especially when separating for the first few times. Consider sending your child with a picture of a family member, a special bracelet or string tied around their wrist to remind them of you, or even a heart drawn on their hand.
Always say Goodbye. It can be tempting to “sneak out” when dropping off your child in a new place. Often families do this to avoid tears or clinging behaviours, but these strategies can make things more difficult. Waiting for your child to be distracted or telling them you’re “going to the bathroom” when you plan to leave reinforces your child that separation is confusing and scary and that they can’t let go of their caregivers in new places.
Children can experience strong feelings when it comes to separating from family members, this is a sign of healthy attachment. It is important to acknowledge these feelings but not let them change the plan. Your child can trust that their family will make safe healthy, supportive choices for them, and you can trust that your child is strong enough to be brave and miss you for a short time.