Children whose caregivers respond sensitively to the child’s needs at times of distress and fear in infancy and early childhood develop secure attachments to their primary caregivers. These children can also use their caregivers as a secure base from which to explore their environment. They have better outcomes than non-securely attached children in social and emotional development, educational achievement and mental health. Early attachment relations are thought to be crucial for later social relationships and for the development of capacities for emotional and stress regulation and self-control.
As a teacher working with infants/toddlers it is important to be able to pair with the parents and the child first so that way they can be able to build a relationship with you and gain that trust. Going to school for the first time is scary for a child especially if this is the first time they are away from their parents or family member who watches them. Being in a classroom with unfamiliar faces can be very frightening for an infant/toddler. When my daughter first started Pre-k 2 I was nervous about leaving her alone in school and she was sensing that I was nervous so she kept looking for me instead of wanting to do the activities that the teacher was doing. When I stepped out the classroom she started to cry and scream “don’t leave me mommy” the teacher told me to tell her that I will be right back so she knows that I will be right back and little by little she got use to being in school and expecting me to pick her up. Children just needs someone to keep reassuring them that they will be ok and that their parent is coming back and once they see a consistent pattern they will understand ok I come to school and mommy or daddy gives me a kiss and they will be right back.
Childhood stress can be present during any period of a young child’s life and in any environment that requires them to adapt or change. A child, just like an adult, can experience stress caused by positive and exciting changes, such as starting a new activity or starting school, but is commonly related to negative changes such as an illness or death in the family, or their parents separating. In small doses, stress can be good and a learning curve for a child to develop their own coping methods to foster their problem-solving skills and help them better manage stress as an adult. However, excessive stress can affect how a child thinks, acts, feels, and develops overall. As a result, even small changes that are not necessarily negative can impact a child’s feelings of safety and stability.
Balaban, N. (2006). Easing the separation process for infants, toddlers and families. YC Young Children, 61(6), 14–20.
Separation anxiety is very close to home for my family. My 4-year-old daughter, Scarlett, gets very emotional when she knows it is nearing time to depart on her own. Gonzales-Mena (2008) states that they may protest “even though they have never protested before” (p.91). Scarlett has gone to daycare her whole life. The problem is that my wife is a teacher and they spend the summers together. Scarlett and her mother are together every day of the summer so when it comes time to go back to school Scarlett gets extremely upset. It takes weeks to ease her back in a normal routine. Scarlett was also in gymnastics and took a couple of weeks off while her baby brother arrived. When it was time to go back, she had bad separation anxiety. Scarlett has done the same at church. My wife and I have to ease her into class and ease our way away. She recently started crying at school during nap time for mommy and her teacher had to pat her to sleep. My wife tucks her in at night reads her a story and pats her to sleep.
With all of this being said, I believe that my daughters separation anxiety comes with spending a lot of time with her mother. Her school teachers all understand the anxiety and the reasons behind it and are always willing to work with us. We always treat the situation calmly and never rush out of the room leaving her screaming.
Gonzalez-Mena, J. (2008). Diversity in early care and education: Honoring differences (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
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