1. Separation Anxiety Description
When a child suffers from separation anxiety, he usually is in distress and cries when a he or she is away from the parent or from home. Even though it is a normal developmental stage and most children experience some anxiety the first days of school, it is necessary to provide support to the child and the family in order to overcome it when this behavior persists.
Many behaviors exhibited include crying or whining, clinginess (holding hand or leg, wanting to be held, hiding behind parent), shyness, silence, or unwillingness to interact with others, even if they are familiar.
2. Possible Primary Causes of the Misbehavior
► Lack of autonomy
► Fear of abandonment
► Fear or change
► Insecure Attachment
► Scary event that the child experiences personally
► Serious separation (e.g., a parent’s service in the military)
► Stress in the family (divorce, serious illness or death)
► Significant change (such as a new nanny, birth of a new sibling, or starting at a new school)
3. Methods, Procedures and Techniques
► Be available in the early morning to welcome the child when he is separating from his parents.
- Allow the children to bring a picture of his family to keep in his cubby. Having a clock for the child to know the time his mom is going to pick him up might be helpful as well.
- Hold the child hand once the parent has left. Let him calm down and join the class once he has settle down. If you are not available work with a teacher aide that the child feels comfortable with after the parent has left.
- Communicate all the activities that will take place during the day so he can have an idea of the schedule and know that his mom is going to pick him up after a specific activity or time.
► Acknowledge the child’s feelings. Let the child know that you understand his feelings. A statement such as “I know you’re feeling sad” is more helpful than telling a child that he’s making a fuss over nothing.
► Use Bibliotherapy to solve the primary causes of the behavior and to help the child cope with the problem.
- Read and make the following books available in your classroom: The little engine that could by Watty Pipe (self-confidence) and “Will you be my friend? A bunny and Bird Story” by N. Tafuri (Creating new friends),
- Read the Hello Goodbye Window by C. Raschka individually with the child during the day and lent him the book overnight so he can read it with his parents that night. Assign a hello goodbye window in your classroom.
► Emphasize and talk with the child about times when he was brave or did something independently or made a new friend in the classroom.
► Use activities that promote social behavior such as line up in pairs and building blocks in pairs or trios.
4. Parent involvement:
The involvement of the parents is key since the child problem directly involves his caregivers. First, I will meet with the parents and ask them questions in order to find the primary causes of the behavior in order to work together with the child. Below are the general recommendations I would give the parents:
► Encourage your child autonomy and self-confidence. See examples below.
- Try to visit museums, attend reading activities or play dates or other activities in which he can develop his social skills. Teach children effective language an how to use it: “Use your Words”.
- Encourage self help skills such as self-feeding. Make sure to acknowledge successes in activities that show independence and build inner trust.
- Teach them problem solving skills. Allow him to make small choices in order to empower him.
► Make sure that you notify the teachers of significant changes in the child’s life.
► Honor all commitments to your child, especially time commitments. Be especially attentive to picking up a child at the specified time or returning home when stated. Additionally, look for other ways to make and honor commitments, even small ones, to build trust and security.
► Plan and talk about enjoyable activities in advance. Help your child prepare to be away and anticipate positive outcomes. Let your child know how you can be reached if necessary.
► Additionally, read a number of children’s books that incorporate the theme of separation anxiety such as The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Big Truck and Little Truck by Jan Carr, and I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas. I will recommend that these books are read with the parents at home.
5. Measure Results:
Observe the child behavior in the next following weeks in order to track progress. Set up a follow up meeting with the parents in one month in order to evaluate the results of the program.
Make notes about the child behavior in a notebook everyday about positive and negative behaviors associated with the separation anxiety to share with the parents and other teachers during the process, if needed.
The young child, the family and the community. Janet Gonzales- Mena
Literature to help children cope with Family Stressors