Our kids never had trouble going into a new classroom. I think their confidence came from their mother. Connie, my amazing wife, told me the kids are going to the nursery because I need a break for them and they need a break from me. That is exactly what happened too. My wife has taught most every age in Sunday School, but seems to enjoy the first graders the most. She really enjoys being a mom and a wife, but she also enjoys being a teacher and serving the Lord.
Connie never tried those convincing words like I hear parents saying today, “Don’t be scared”, “I think you will really like this class”, “I promise I will come back for you”, etc. I’m sure you have heard even more phrases like these. To make things worse, the parents won’t leave. It’s almost like they want the child to cry so they can go rushing in to rescue them (insert eye roll here). Why do parents do this?
What I learned from Mrs. Jones was simple, “This is our new church. You will go to your class and I will go to my class. We will sit in church together and then we will go home and eat roast with mashed potatoes before taking a nap.” Nothing was ever said about being scared. They didn’t know that was a thing. Consider these suggestions below when dealing with parents breeding separation anxiety.
Written by Pat Murphy
Mommy, please don’t leave me! Often parents hear this when dropping their child for worship and Sunday School, creating mixed feelings for both the child and the parent. So what can we do to minimize these experiences and help both child and parent?
Separation Anxiety can be defined as: a phase when one is “clingy” and afraid of unfamiliar people and places.
Seems like yesterday I was excited that my child preferred me to anyone else around. However, as he has grown and now begins to fall apart whenever he is out of my sight, it is beginning to wear on me. Rest assured, things will get better, as he is simply experiencing separation anxiety, a developmental phase that most children go through, sometimes more than once. And yes, it does go away with time. Most experts agree that the period of extreme neediness usually passes between 18 months and 2 ½ years. As your child grows older, he is developing a strong drive for independence, but he still depends on you for support. When you are out of sight, he may feel you have abandoned him. What can be done to minimize these feelings and help your child adjust to being away from you?
Tips for successful Sunday Experiences:
- Use positive conversation about church at home.
- Use photos of the teachers, along with their names, who will provide care and teach in his classroom.
- Go to bed on time, keep the evening hours as normal and stress free as possible.
- Start your day with prayer and a joyful heart.
- Get up early enough not to be rushed.
- Provide a nourishing breakfast.
- Remain calm and pleasant.
- Keep the travel time to church positive and enjoyable.
- Try not to show your apprehension in leaving your child as he will certainly pick up on it.
- Stay calm and positive, even if he is hysterical.
- Reassure him you will be back soon, add a silly phrase that will provide a distraction such as “till then penguin” or “see you later alligator”.
- Provide a favorite security object.
- Allow the teacher to walk your child away instead of you walking away.
- Encourage teachers to engage him in an activity.
- Make it a brief good-bye, he may cry but the distraction of an activity will lessen the negative of your departure. Do not sneak out as he may assume that you can disappear at any time and he will be more reluctant to let you out of his sight.
Noted child psychologist Donald Friedheim, reminds parents that coping with separation is one of the many stresses children need to learn to manage in life. “Learning to cope is an important developmental task,” says Friedheim. Reassurance from you that everything is okay, church is a good place to be, and that his teachers love and care for him while you are gone.
Check out this week’s other post!