Separation Anxiety and the Montessori Classroom

Whether your child spent their first few years at home or in a traditional daycare center, starting Montessori preschool is a change. If your child is resistant or anxious about starting Montessori, take a look at the simple steps to ease the transition.

Understand the Issue

The tears and please to not leave are upsetting for any parent. But your child’s anxious behavior isn’t permanent. Separation anxiety is a normal reaction to a new situation. Unlike infants or younger toddlers, who can’t process or identify their anxious feelings, your preschool-aged child can.This may make morning tantrums seem unnecessary or even babyish.

While your child does recognize that they’re going to school, you’re not staying with them, and you’ll come back later, they may still feel anxious about their new learning environment. Understanding the heart of the issue can help both you and your child to manage potential outbursts and soothe the transition into Montessori.

Talk to your child, gently asking them what they feel. Even though you may already know they feel anxious or scared, avoid putting words in their mouth. Let your child express and name their thoughts and emotions. As they express what they feel, you’ll develop a deeper understanding. This understanding helps you to help your child move forward and enjoy their new school setting.

Talk to the Teacher

Montessori teachers are specially trained in the philosophy’s methods. This makes them experts in child development. Children are central to their own development in the Montessori classroom, with the teacher acting as a guide. This means the teacher won’t lecture, dictate, or require your child to act in a specific way.

If you have concerns about your child’s seeming inability to separate at the start of the school day, ask the teacher for advice and guidance. The educator can provide you with tips or strategies for separating, pair your child with another (less anxious) student, or suggest the best way for you to drop off and exit.

Along with helping during drop-off time, the teacher can also work with your child during the school day, helping them to self-regulate during the mornings through role playing or modeling behaviors.

Create a Routine

Never sneak out of the classroom. This leaves your child with questions or new worries, possibly increasing their anxiety level. Instead of sneaking away mid-cry, create a routine to share together.

What can your routine include? The possibilities are limitless. But if you’re stumped for ideas, consider:

  • A secret handshake. Design your own special handshake, high five, or similar hand gesture that only the two of you know.
  • A special code. Create a code (physical or verbal) that signals a fond farewell.
  • A kiss. Try a double-cheeked kiss or rubbing nose tips together as part of your goodbye routine.

Keep the routine going after the separation anxiety subsides. Even though your child doesn’t necessarily need it to feel comfortable as they progress through the school year, it’s still a bonding ritual the two of you can enjoy.

Bring Montessori Home

Help your child’s transition by making their new classroom seem familiar. Talk to the teacher, asking about Montessori materials to use at home. During drop-off, look closely at the classroom and take note of how the teacher prepares the environment.

While exact duplication of the classroom setting isn’t necessary for this strategy to work, the more familiar your child is with what they’ll use at school, the more comfortable they’ll feel. When your child starts to feel anxious, point out the classroom items that your child knows from home.

Is your child ready to start Montessori preschool? Contact Miniapple International Montessori Schools for more information.

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