June 2020 Newsletter – Preparing Children and Families for the Return to Care: Preparing for New Routines and Separation Anxiety

Many children have been home with their families for several weeks, or even months. They have adjusted to a different routine and possibly become accustomed to spending lots of time with their parents who will soon be returning to work. Returning to care is going to be yet another adjustment children need to make in a short period of time. Even children who have been in your program for multiple years may show signs of separation anxiety during the first few weeks after reopening.

Some of the normal recommendations to help with separation anxiety, such as comfort items from home or parents spending time in the classroom before departing do not align with new CDC guidelines. It will take some creativity and collaboration with families to support children who experience separation anxiety.  Perhaps parents could drop off a comfort item (that is able to be cleaned and sanitized) prior to the child’s first day.  Teachers could sanitize the item and have it ready for the child on their first day.

Communicate with families about separation anxiety and provide ideas for how they can begin to talk about the back-to-school transition in a positive way with their children.  However, at drop off, everyone should be prepared for anxiety. Comfort children as best you can, walk them through the new drop-off procedures, and allow them to engage in an activity of their choice upon entering the classroom.

It is best that programs prepare for children to experience stress upon returning to care. That means deliberately making adjustments to the morning transition to keep it as stress-free as possible. Don’t expect children to be able to follow the drop off routine independently, even if they were doing so prior to the shut-down. Provide prompts and visual cues to remind children of tasks, such as hanging up their bag and washing their hands. Posters that illustrate the steps of the transition can be placed by the classroom door, especially if you are introducing new safety steps into your routine.

Teachers will also need to adjust other elements of the routine, such as circle time.  It is recommended that teachers refrain from gathering children in groups where they have to sit close to one another. This is a time to adapt your typical teaching methods to incorporate small group work and individual exploration that allow children to spread out.

For the main article Preparing Children and Families for the Return to Care, CLICK HERE

For the article Talking to Children about COVID-19, CLICK HERE

For the article Managing Adult Emotions, CLICK HERE

For the article Establishing and Communicating Policies, CLICK HERE