The Struggle with Separation

The first step to any child’s education is often the hardest one: separation. It’s a process that is difficult for parent and child alike, and can often be an ongoing fight throughout the first year (and beyond) of education. For parents, it is the overall emotional response to seeing their little one begin new experiences without them. For children, it is the anxiety of being away from their people and main source of comfort for extended periods. And even more than that, it is the inability to fully grasp that it isn’t forever — that they’ll be reunited with mommy and or daddy soon.

Book Nook Enrichment’s classes begin at 18 months, so we are often up close and personal with the child separation anxiety. Every child is different! Some children are ready to separate right away and head into class without a second glance, while others need more time to acclimate. There’s no right way to separate — it’s all about reading the child and finding ways to make them as comfortable as possible. Luckily, we’ve found ways to ease children (and parents!) into the idea of separating and have more than a few tips and tricks up our sleeves.

Start the transition with a soft separation. Soft separation prompts parents to accompany their child into class, introduce them to the environment and new faces, and then remove themselves when their child is more comfortable. This slower approach to separation gives children a chance to familiarize themselves with their surroundings while also giving parents a chance to get a better sense of the teachers and class itself.

Baby suffering from separation anxiety

Introduce the idea of “your space” vs. “your caregiver’s space.” We have a living room when you first enter Book Nook where we invite parents to stay and wait for their children — particularly when a little one is first separating. It’s an extremely beneficial aspect of the separation process, as we are able to move from the living room to our classroom and help our students understand that while they’re in class, their caregiver is still nearby. Mommy might not be right next to you, we say, but look! She’s just a short walk away! It gives our toddlers a sense of security which encourages them to settle in and engage in the session.

Implement means of distraction into the act of separation. The hallway from our living room to our classroom is filled to the brim with books, trinkets, pictures, and more. These extras not only add a sense of coziness to our little nook, but also provide opportunities for our educators to distract children who may be having trouble separating. Sometimes it is as simple as winding up the toys in our fishbowl, pulling out a pop-up book, or listening for the bird singing in our story tree to help ease a child’s anxiety. It instills a kind of wonder in learning and allows them to feel happier and more excited in the space.

Uncover the things that bring each child joy and incorporate them freely.Some of our little ones like stickers best. Others are big fans of watercolor painting. Whatever it may be, in the first few weeks of separation, pay close attention to the aspects of class that soothe or engage most and spend extra time with them. This simple act will not only motivate the students, but also allow them to begin to associate that happiness and comfort with the class itself. Nurturing that happiness and cultivating that joy will only instill in them an early and lifelong love of education.

Book Nook Enrichment’s Lil Hoots classes begin at 18 months and continue through 24 months. It is the perfect first step for separation, and also to introduce the early literacy skills necessary for the utmost success in preschool and beyond. Interested in learning more? Check out our Little Hoots page and sign up for a tour!

Happy Reading!