When I was a kid my mum had to physically drag me to school. Every morning must have been a nightmare for her (sorry mum).
She had her tactics, but with two other children, I’m sure she wasn’t always bursting with creative solutions.
The ‘Happy Plant’
Once she told me to look at the ‘Happy Plant’ (also known as a Dracaena Fragrans) in the corner, and it would make me happy. Now I’m a parent I understand that this idea came from a place of deep desperation. School can be a 5-day-a-week constant struggle to find ways to get your kids in the car.
When you have a particularly sad child, mornings are fraught with emotion. There are more long-term, emotional strategies that you can (and should) employ to help your child overcome separation anxiety. But sometimes it helps to have a few speedy tricks up your sleeve. Here are 7 ways to help ease your child’s separation anxiety at drop-off time …
1. The Hug Button
This is an idea a mum posted to a Facebook group a few years ago. It went viral (and you can see why). Louise Mallet tried to ease her son’s preschool anxiety by drawing matching love hearts on their hands. She said that anytime he felt lonely he could press his “hug button” and she would send him a hug.
2. A scented handkerchief
After the ‘Happy Plant’ fiasco, my mum came up with a much better idea. She would give me a tissue with a spray of her perfume on it. From memory, it was Beautiful by Estee Lauder.
Whenever I was particularly sad or scared I would smell her perfume and feel comforted. Having said that, the tissue did end up in a pile of small balls at the end of the day, so I recommend doing this with a more durable handkerchief.
3. A magic card
Some psychologists recommend giving children small picture cards to help them deal with their anxiety. It’s a cognitive reminder to breathe or feel more grounded.
You can make your own special card that your child can keep in their pocket. It may be a picture of their favourite animal telling them to breathe, or even a stick-drawing saying, “I love you.”
4. Special alone time
Make one afternoon a week ‘their’ time, so when you’re leaving you can remind them of your special date afternoon, and what you’ll be doing (going to the park, having a milkshake etc).
A bit like the solution above, but with an added element of spontaneity. Just before the morning school bell rings, tell them that this afternoon after school it’s ‘choose-your-own-adventure’. They can decide what they want to do – watch TV, walk the dog, get ice cream, make dinner – and you will do it.
You may want to give them some options to choose from so you don’t promise to go to Disneyland! This might help to distract them and get excited about the afternoon before you leave.
6. Love notes in their lunch box
Keep yourself involved in their day by leaving them surprises in their lunch box. This could be a little note telling them you love them or that they’re awesome.
Or, as one mum did, pinprick messages into their banana! By the time they eat their banana, the message will have browned to something they can see. It will be an unexpected surprise that will remind them you’re never far away.
7. Matching key rings
This is what I did with my daughter this morning. I have a rather beaten up old keyring I got from the zoo. Somehow I ended up with two. Just as the tears began to fall, I put it in her little hand. I reminded her that I had the same one (she had been coveting it since I first bought it) and that every time she held it I would be close by.
A keyring has the added advantage that you can attach it to their pocket zipper (or school bag) and it won’t be lost.
Whatever you decide to do with your little one when they’re begging you not to leave, good luck. It’s heartbreaking and awful.
Just remember you will be there with a big hug in the afternoon and all will be well.