Helping Children Manage Feelings About Change
As this story demonstrates, separation is not simply a September or starting-school issue. We confront it throughout life, and find it particularly painful whenever a warm attachment is broken abruptly and for unknown reasons. To this little girl, and others in her situation, it makes no sense that this loved person simply vanished, to be replaced by someone else. Children in her situation are likely to feel angry and betrayed by the adults in control. And it is so hard for those adults to explain or justify the loss.
THE PARENTS CAN:
* Try to comfort the child by saying something like, "Angie loves you; but now she has to go to school in the afternoons. She wishes she could do both things-be with you and finish school-but she just can't. We'll invite her to visit, though, and you can talk to her on the phone if you like. You can tell her about your school, and she'll tell you about hers. You'll still be friends." (But be absolutely sure these things are possible before you promise them.)
* Give a child in this situation as many choices as possible about other things, such as what to wear or eat; more at this time, when she is feeling so powerless, than usual.
* Invite one of the children from after-school care to visit on a weekend. Invite the after-school care provider over for tea. In short, create a positive connection between the new provider and the family, while making the separation from the old caregiver as gradual as possible.
THE TEACHER CAN:
* Offer the child choices within the classroom to help her regain some feeling of control and power.
* Encourage parents to spend extra time with a child who is experiencing a bewildering loss. Maybe one or the other parent could take an afternoon off each week to stay with their daughter at after-school care.