Finding it hard to separate?

The transition to an early childhood setting or school can be very challenging for both child and Mum or Dad.

Finding it hard to separate?

The transition to an early childhood setting or school can be very challenging for both child and Mum or Dad. Separation anxiety is totally normal and common, in fact it provides a safety net in some respects. It is important that our children know who is safe to be with but building this relationship can take time.

I was very fortunate when my children all started in care. I employed their wonderful teachers and I often sat at the office out the front of the building, although the pull on my heart strings when they cried and wanted me to stay was still so painful. For all our families you had to trust the unknown and leave your babies for the first time with people you didn’t know. I don’t think I fully appreciated that until my eldest was ready to start school. All of a sudden I realised that for the first time I couldn’t choose his teachers, pop into the room whenever I wanted and chat to his teachers. I didn’t get a daily handover nor a daybook with fun pictures to make me feel OK. So began my transition to “big” school, yes, I think it was a bigger transition for me than Mitchell.

I wondered if they would understand what he needed, when he needed it. I worried about him being too shy to ask to go the toilet. I was concerned he wouldn’t eat and imagined him sitting alone in the playground. I had spent many years speaking with families about the transition to our centres and it was now time for me to listen to my own advice.

Here are some of my tips:

  • Get familiar with the centre or school, don’t miss the orientations and talk about the new adventure positively at home.
  • Give reassurance that you are coming back and have a little familiar routine. It may be that you visit the animals together, you sign in at the desk together…just something you do the same way each drop off.
  • When leaving please be positive. Telling your child that you don’t want to leave them and that you wish you didn’t have to doesn’t help the child feel secure in their new environment. They will also worry if you are sad.
  • You may want to leave something like a family photo or a special item they can keep with them until you arrive back.
  • Make a quick get-away. Keep the farewell happy and bright (even if you are dying inside) and the routine the same. Maybe that’s a wave at the window or you blow a kiss as you leave. Consistency is the key here.

Our children are so delightfully clever and if they can sense your hesitation or sadness to leave them, they will try very convincingly to not stay which will leave you in a far more emotional place.

This is the right advice and the information I would give anyone, but as for my first day of “big” school with Mitchell…I didn’t follow it too well. I started the morning by telling my husband I think I should home school and when we finally got to school, a beautiful Mum from Fit Kidz who had a son in Mitchell’s class came over to me and said I think you should put your sunglasses on and remember all that stuff you told me when we started at Fit Kidz.

Time really does fly, Mitchell is now in year 9 and now wants to be dropped as far from the school as possible, he transitions far too easily from Mum! His younger brother Samuel started school last year, and it was still hard, but this time I held it together until I got in the car!

This parenting gig is the hardest job you will ever have but here’s to supporting each other without judgement. I also take this opportunity to thank Fit Kidz families for trusting us with the privilege of caring for your children.


Melissa Scaife, Mother of 3 children and owner of Fit Kidz Learning Centres.

All stories by: Mel