Tips For Teachers On Easing Your Preschooler’s Separation Anxiety
You know the phrase “distance makes the heart grow fonder”? It obviously didn’t factor in kids with separation anxiety. For young children, distance from their parents at the start of a new school year often leads to bouts of kicking, screaming, and crying for them to return.
Starting a new routine like preschool can be a difficult and stressful situation for kids. Their entire lives are changing and they’re thrown into a room of strangers. No wonder so many children (and parents) struggle with separation anxiety.
As a teacher, you have the challenging task of helping your students conquer their separation anxiety.
It may take a while for your students to get used to the new environment and rhythm. Be prepared for the first day of class to be difficult and tear-filled for everyone involved. But once your students have figured how to cope with their emotions, the rest of the school year will be a happier place for the parents, the children, and yourself.
Child Separation Anxiety 101
It’s natural for children to feel scared and anxious when away from their parents. Children who experience separation anxiety worry excessively when separated from their parents for any amount of time. Their anxieties can manifest themselves in a variety of ways:
They refuse to leave their parent’s side or be away from them at all.
They become easily agitated and have temper tantrums.
They often complain about stomach aches, headaches, or other physical illnesses.
They are anxious or emotional whenever they’re not by their parents.
They worry excessively about losing their caregiver. This symptom could be more prominent this year from COVID-19 worries.
Children can experience separation anxiety for many reasons. Environmental factors like the illness or death of a parent, or a worldwide pandemic, can make children cling to something stable in their lives. A family history of anxiety or mental health issues can also contribute to an anxiety disorder. Some children’s personalities are also more sensitive to being away from their caregivers and can lead to separation anxiety.
There’s no straight answer on how long a student will have separation anxiety issues. It could be just for the first few days or weeks of class until they’re comfortable in their new routine. Their issues could be solved and then return after a family vacation. It could ebb and flow throughout the entire school year. Since there are many home factors that are out of your control as their teacher, it’s crucial for the relationship of both your students and their parents for you to be patient during this stressful time in their lives.
Separation Anxiety Tips for Teachers
Having an open house before school begins is a great way to meet and form relationships with your students and their parents. It also helps the children to meet you in a positive setting alongside their parents. This shows them you’re an adult they can trust. Ask their parents about any health issues you should know about, how their child expresses their feelings, or if they have a preferred emotional coping tactic. Let the students explore your classroom beforehand as well so they’re not coming in cold to a new environment on that first day.
Be sure at this time to acknowledge the parent’s feelings about leaving their kids. They could be anxious about the process. This may be the first time they’ve left their child for an extended amount of time, and preparing their child for preschool can be emotionally taxing. Help ease their anxiety by answering all their questions and let them know how they can contact you should anything happen.
Creating a safe and fun classroom environment will go a long way in helping struggling students ease their separation anxiety. Allow children to bring a security blanket or toy with them if it makes them feel more comfortable. Hang photos of their family members around the classroom so they see a friendly and familiar face every day. Have them make an arts & crafts project to give to their parents at the end of the day. Making the classroom somewhere they want to come back to will help calm their anxieties.
Consider creating a visual daily schedule for students to follow—this helps children understand they didn’t get left behind by their parents and that they will see them again soon.
If a student is struggling to leave their parent at drop off, it’s helpful to have distractions on hand. Toys can steer their attention away from their parents and help get them into the classroom. Let them know what activities they can look forward to—this will make it easier during drop off to get them excited for the day.
Separation Anxiety Tips For Parents
As a parent, your behavior will impact how your child feels about you leaving them for the day. This can be an emotional time for you, especially if this is the longest you’ve been away from your child before. But if you’re making a big fuss during drop off, your child will follow suit and become more anxious themselves. Keep morning goodbyes short and positive. Anything else will prolong your child’s anxiety and cement the goodbyes as a negative process.
Your child takes social cues from you. If they see that you’re nervous or scared for them to leave, it will be much more difficult for them to adjust and grow in this new environment. It’s important to keep a positive attitude and show them how exciting this new adventure will be.
It’s important to acknowledge your own emotions during this time—separation anxiety isn’t something that only children experience. You have a close and special bond with your child. It’s going to be difficult at first giving them space to grow and have new adventures without you.
If you’re feeling separation anxiety, there are things you can do to make this change easier. Now is the perfect time to connect with other parents who may be feeling the same way you are. A support group can help you overcome your anxieties and can be a welcome distraction. You may now have a lot more free time during the day—stay busy with fun activities you didn’t have time to do before. It will help the day pass quicker and help you feel fulfilled in other aspects of your life apart from parenthood.
How To Help Your Special Needs Student With Separation Anxiety
Special needs children will need a little extra TLC when starting preschool. Depending on the child and their level of functionality, they may struggle to understand why their parents are leaving and why their routine is being drastically changed.
It’s normal for special needs children to have difficulties communicating verbally. So when they get anxious from their caregiver leaving, they may react physically, yell, or cry to express their emotions. This can be stressful for everyone in the room. But patience, understanding, and lots of love are key to disarming the situation.
When meeting the parents of your special needs student, get as much background information as possible to avoid future issues:
Stress coping mechanisms. Do they become violent when they act out? What do you do at home when they have an episode? What do you use to help distract them?
Personality. Are they more shy and withdrawn? Or loud and energetic? Do they work well in group settings? Or will group activities stress them out and cause an episode?
Routine. Routine is important for special needs children. They like consistency and struggle when that routine changes. When do they usually eat? Do they have any food limitations or preferences? What books do they like to read? What activities do they like to do outside?
Comfort items. Many children have a physical security blanket or toy that can help them feel safe and connected to what’s already known for them. Do you have an extra comfort item in case it gets lost?
You may have to bring in an assistant or aid trained to work with special needs students. It can be easy to blame yourself and feel like you “failed” because you couldn’t handle the situation alone, but you haven’t. Students with special needs can often be physically and emotionally overwhelming. They can lash out at you and your other students when anxious. That extra set of hands and training will help you create a healthy learning environment for everyone in the classroom.
Separation Anxiety During COVID-19
With the new school year about to start, you may have to face a larger amount of separation anxiety in their classrooms than usual. The last few months have been difficult for parents to navigate. And many children have become accustomed to staying inside and close to their caregiver for the majority of the day. It will naturally be jarring for them to suddenly change their home routine.
It’s especially important for you to be sensitive to both the children’s and parent’s health concerns during this time. Parents may be more concerned about safety guidelines like face masks and hand sanitizers around the classroom. Make sure you have a strong classroom cleaning plan to help keep the environment as healthy and virus-free as possible. Your students’ physical well-being is just as important as their emotional well-being.
New experiences can be scary—separation anxiety is a common issue almost every teacher will deal with during their career. It’s a stressful time for the child and can be an emotional process for you. But the work you are doing is essential to their emotional growth and development.
It’s a little difficult running a daycare center without children to take care of. Finding prospective families can be frustrating and time-consuming, but it’s an important part of managing a business. It can’t be arts and crafts all the time (no matter how much you’d like that to be real). That’s why we’ve put together eight practical tips on how to attract parents to your daycare center.
1. Social Media Is Your Best Friend
Social media has become a must for nearly every business in helping generate business. Parents want to make sure they’re leaving their children with someone trustworthy. Curating a strong social media presence helps give prospective parents an idea of what services your daycare offers and a behind the scenes look at what happens when they drop off their kids at your center. It also gives you a chance to interact with parents and your community by posting fun and engaging content. The posts don’t have to be too complex—here are a few daycare posts ideas:
A post asking parents to comment with possible future daycare activities
Promoting a future event like an open house
A photo of the arts and crafts project their children made that day
Resharing a helpful parenting article
A post updating parents with any daycare announcements
If you’re posting anything with the children in the photo, make sure that you have permission from the parents to do so.
2.You’re Never Not Networking
If you thought your networking days were over now that the majority of your day is spent with toddlers, you were wrong. Make connections with parents in your neighborhood, other nearby childcare professionals, or your local community center. You never know who is looking for your services.
Local Facebook groups are a great resource for finding prospective clients, as well as staying up to date on the news and issues that are important to your community. Sharing relevant and helpful information with parents will help cement you as someone they can trust, and therefore trust with their children. Be careful not to be overly promotional since many groups will kick you out if you’re only there to advertise your business.
You should also consider creating a business card you can hand people during those spur of the moment networking opportunities.
3. Old School Marketing Is Still Alive
Think back to your babysitting days when all you needed to find customers were a few flyers taped up around town—it can still be just as easy to attract customers today. Don’t underestimate the benefits of beautifully designed posters and flyers. They can have a big impact on your company’s brand recognition around the community.
If there are big events like fairs or festivals happening in your area, consider setting up a booth to advertise your services to the parents. Be sure to have some fun toys and prizes for the children as well.
4. Don’t Forget About Google Reviews
Make sure to keep an eye out for online reviews of your daycare. Google reviews are a great way to get feedback on your business while also generating new customers. Many people read reviews before visiting a business. Regularly checking what reviews parents leave helps you know what aspects of your business they like, dislike, and what changes you should implement.
The great thing about Google reviews is that the more reviews your company has, the higher Google ranks you when people are searching for your services. Try asking parents if they wouldn’t mind leaving a short, positive review of your business on Google. It’s easy for them to do and helps your business gain authority on Google.
In order to get these reviews, you’ll need to set up your Google My Business profile. There you can optimize your profile so potential parents and customers can find you easier.
5. Put Together a Community Open House
Never underestimate the power free food has on getting people to show up to an event. Host an informal get together with parents and other members of your community where they have the opportunity to mingle, explore your premises, and ask you any questions. Parents want to feel comfortable they’re leaving their children in a safe location—making sure they feel comfortable will go a long way in their decision to sign up with your daycare.
6. Experiment With Paid Social Media Ads
Have you ever been scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and saw an ad for something you were JUST thinking about? Social media ads have an uncanny ability to target potential customers and raise brand awareness.
The best part is you don’t have to have a massive budget to start seeing the payoff of paid social media ads. You can put in as little as a few dollars every day and still get more customers and more people going to your website. The ad options depend on which social media platform you’re going to be focusing on, but this guide is a good place to start when figuring out your ad strategy.
7. Start a Parent Referral Program
Word of mouth recommendations hold a lot of weight in the parenting community. If someone you trust feels comfortable enough to recommend a service, you’re going into that experience with trust already built up. Let parents know that if they help bring in another client, they will get a reward.
The reward could be anything you think would resonate with your customers. Some possible referral rewards could be a discount on your daycare rate, an Amazon gift certificate, gift cards to a local restaurant. Also, no parent is going to say no to straight cash as well.
8. Invest In a Parent-Friendly Management Platform
While the majority of your time will most likely be spent with children, remember that your primary customers are the parents. Keeping them happy with your business operation will make sure they continue to be a customer, as well as increases the chance of having them refer other potential customers. Child care management software like Smartcare gives parents an easy-to-use app to help them manage payments and make sure their child is safe while they are away. That peace of mind for the parents will leave them with a stellar view of your daycare and will become a selling point for future customers.
As a company submerged in the world of child care, we know how vital child care providers are to our economy. Child care is essential for working parents. Additionally, students who attend high quality child care facilities early in life develop stronger skills, are less likely to require special education classes, and are more likely to earn higher wages and have fewer interactions with the justice system as adults.
With an ongoing pandemic and an upcoming election, what does that mean for the future of child care?The answer relies on Millennials and Gen Z.
Millennials make up roughly 35% of the workforce, which makes their generation the largest generation in the U.S. labor force (source). Gen Z, while up and coming into the workforce, is reported as the hardest hit for job loss before and during the pandemic (source). The child care industry should look to these two generations to understand where the industry is headed.
Where do the younger generation’s priorities lie?
According to Next100 and GenForward, 81 percent of young adults (in these two generations) believe that access to affordable, high-quality child care is an important issue.
72 percent of respondents said that the lack of high-quality child care programs and their cost is a barrier to achieving their professional goals.
This data is confirmed by the United States Census Bureau, which finds that one in five of working adults said they are not working is because COVID-19 disrupted their child care arrangements.
Of those not working, women ages 25-44 are almost three times as likely as men to not be working due to child care demands.
Millennials have also been slower to establish households than previous generations have been. They tend to get married and have children later in life. However, Millennials now make up the majority of annual U.S. births. If this trend continues into Gen Z, Millennials and Gen Z will be a topic of the child care industry for years to come.
With younger generations coming out of college and into the workforce with increasing student loan debt and rising rent prices, it stands to reason that the cost of child care would be a large factor in an employment decision.
How could the election affect the future of child care?
Child care is a topic that transcends party lines. Young Democrats, Republicans and Independents all agree that child care is important. 86 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents identified child care as an important issue.
A whopping 92 percent of those surveyed from Care.com indicated that child care is a topic they feel should get more attention from the government as a result of the pandemic. 71 percent of families say that child care policies will impact how they vote in the upcoming election.
Younger generations are coming into the workforce and creating families in massive numbers. This means that Millennials and Gen Z’s employment decisions will be dependent on the child care industry for the foreseeable future. With COVID-19 and job loss among this demographic, cost and accessibility will be huge issues for those re-joining the workforce. These groups are now having families, so it’s no surprise that they will demand more affordable and accessible care. In an upcoming election year, the future of child care will be a hot topic with one of the largest groups of voting age.
Looking for child care or early childhood education is no small task. It can seem like there is an overwhelming amount of daycare centers all promising to give the most to the children who attend them. When a family is searching for a child care program, they need to understand what makes a child care facility high quality and why that is so beneficial to the development of their child.
Several research studies show that high-quality early learning helps kids develop stronger language, math, and social skills upon entering school. Studies also show that they are less likely to require special education classes as they advance in their studies. Children enrolled in child care and early learning education programs are also more likely to earn higher wages and have fewer interactions within the justice system as adults.
What Are the Characteristics of High-Quality Child Care?
Specific characteristics are used to determine the likelihood of a quality child care program. Generally speaking, parents should be on the lookout for a center that provides a safe and nurturing environment, while still providing a stimulating learning experience. Knowing what to look for specifically makes choosing a center much less stressful for parents and much more rewarding for the children who attend. Some of the most important factors to consider are:
Small Class and Group Sizes
Small group size and class size mean more one-on-one time between teachers and students. It also allows teachers to create a stronger bond with the children in their classes, which in turn makes the children feel safe.
Staff with Higher Education and Continuing-Teacher Training
Centers that employ staff with prior teaching experience in early childhood development means that they know how to tailor the curriculum in developmentally appropriate ways. It’s also beneficial to be a part of an education program that encourages its directors and staff to further their skills, providing them the opportunity to evolve within the ever-changing landscape of the educational system.
Low Staff/Teacher Turnover
This is beneficial for a few reasons. It allows the staff to stay familiar with the children and build stronger relationships. It also means that the team is well cared for by their employer and enjoys their job, making it far more likely for them to put extra time and effort into their teaching.
Positive Teacher/Child Interactions
It’s essential to observe how the teachers at a child care center interact with their students. If the teachers seem stressed out or flustered, it can be a sign of poor organization or lack of leadership. The children should be in a positive environment where learning looks fun and organic, not chaotic.
National Accreditation and Licensing Standards
Child care centers that receive national accreditation and meet the minimum licensing standards demonstrate both the ability and the intent to provide higher than average care for the children who attend them. It proves that they set the bar high and have the results to demonstrate it.
Good Health and Safety Practices
Young children aren’t known for their health and safety practices. A large part of providing high-quality child care is ensuring that the children, teachers, and families who walk through the doors everyday practice proper safety, hygiene, and emergency protocol. Teachers should know what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency.
What Should Parents Look for When Touring a Child Care Facility?
Try to schedule a tour that doesn’t take place at nap time. This way, they can see what goes on when the energy is high, and the school day is in full swing.
Observe the classroom sizes and how many kids are in each class. This will give parents an idea of the amount of time/attention teachers can give to each student.
Observe the average age of the teachers who are working. If the teachers are younger, it is less likely that they have been there long and is also a good indication that there is probably a high turnover rate at that particular daycare center.
Do the children look happy to be there? If there seems to be a lot of chaos and turbulence, it’s a sign that the teachers don’t have a good grasp on keeping the kid’s attention or performing under pressure.
How do the teachers handle conflict amongst the children? Are they able to access the situation and take control, or are the children controlling them?
Are the students engaged, working on projects, age appropriate activities, and interacting with other children and teachers? Or are they watching a video and entertaining themselves? Early childhood education should be hands-on and interactive rather than through a screen.
Is the facility clean? Parents should check bathrooms, changing stations, and all food prep and dining areas. Things should be kept tidy and spotless when not in use.
Do the teachers at the center know all the students and their parent’s names? This is an excellent indicator of the types of relationships they form with the children who go there and their families.
How Can Daycares Provide a High-Quality Experience?
Provide families with access to knowledgeable, trusted staff
Keep class sizes small, so teachers and students don’t feel overwhelmed
Staff should get to know the families in the program and maintain a close personal connection with each student and their parents
Provide learning opportunities and encourage continuing education for all faculty members
Stay up-to-date and informed on the state and local guidelines for operating a child care facility
Check-in with students and their parents frequently to make sure you are on the same page about the education that is being provided
Make sure all staff is trained to deal with difficult or potentially dangerous situations
Provide teachers with adequate compensation and benefits to help reduce the rate of turnover
Make sure to provide a clean and healthy learning and teaching environment for all who walk through the door
Choosing family child care or an early education center doesn’t have to be a headache and operating one doesn’t have to be either. Follow the above tips and guidelines to create a creative, learning-enriched environment that is both safe and nurturing for all.
Smartcare believes strongly that education in general and childcare in particular are entering a “new normal”. What this means is that many of the common practices in place before COVID-19 will need to be replaced with practices better suited to current challenges.
One of the first things that we think the student will change is the check-in process.
In the pre-COVID era, the process typically involved a parent entering a common space like a lobby, interacting with a fingerprint scanner to authenticate themselves, and then handing off a child to a staff member.
Before COVID, Smartcare modernized this process with the use of touchless QR codes, and while removing a fingerprint scanner dramatically reduces contact points, we think the process can be better.
We think the best practice in the new normal will look something like this:
Families will queue in socially distanced location such as the family’s car in a drop-off line in front of the school.
Either the parent or the student’s teacher will complete a pre-drop-off health-check. The CDC has provided guidance and we anticipate that guidance will evolve over time. At this time, those guidelines include:
Temperature checks for fevers over 100.4 degrees.
Signs of illness including coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, extreme fussiness, nausea
Technology can automate validating the health-check to ensure it meets regulatory requirements and the school’s own preferences. A child who poses a risk to others never enters the facility, and so that staff and parents have the peace of mind that their child is a in a safe environment.
The student’s teacher can take custody of the child in a well-ventilated, socially-separated space such as directly from the child’s car in a drop-off line, and escort the child directly to a classroom. From here, the child will stay with classmates and remain isolated from other classes in the school, minimizing contact points along the way. This ensures separation from other students in other classes.
Within a school, classes should be kept as separate as possible. Where common areas must be shared, to the extent possible, those areas should be used by only one class at a time and disinfected between uses. All areas and toys should be disinfected regularly.
Where the above procedure isn’t possible, we recommend the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and barriers to minimize the exposure to staff and families.
Smartcare has functionality to support the new normal in your center and our team of customer success managers can help you update your procedures for the new normal. We have a report to help you track health checks and our teacher app allows for touchless check-in wherever its best suited for you to do so. You should expect improvements from us over the summer as we get more feedback.
We are committed to be your technology partner as we navigate into the new normal together.