Principal's Blog Principal's Blog

Separation Anxiety

Trudy Moala - Thursday, March 07, 2019

For the majority of parents in our school, sending a child to school is a matter of a kind farewell, perhaps a cuddle if they’re a younger child and a reminder of who is picking him/her up in the afternoon. For a small minority, separation anxiety is a really heartfelt difficult time. I thought I would give some tips to parents about leaving children at school especially if it is a hard thing to do. I know for one of my own children, leaving me was excruciating for her and also for me so I do feel the pain of parents who struggle with this issue.

Firstly, the Queensland Department of Health put out a booklet about this issue last year and one of the tips they gave really resonated with me. They suggested, that the child or the parent where separation anxiety occurs, often has issues with safety and trust in the school community. As an adult, I urge parents who have children who are experiencing separation anxiety in the morning to have a think about if they believe that their child is safe at school. Grace Primary is completely locked up and secure during the day, the children do not go anywhere on their own as they move about the school and the teachers put as a priority their concern for the children’s safety and well-being at all times. Once a parent has decided that Grace is a safe place, this should be spoken to the child. I recommend a conversation at night which allows the child to articulate any fears he/she has and then for the parent to reassure the child about his/her concerns. Then in the morning as the child is given the final goodbye kiss or cuddle the parent again says to the child, “I believe you are safe here and I will be back this afternoon to hear about the fantastic day you have had.” I know it is very difficult but the best thing to do then, is to leave. Please do not leave and then come back with a hat or lunch or other treat the child has left in the car, this will only cause the pattern to begin again.

The second worse thing to do is to linger because this just draws out the child’s anxiety. As teachers, we often smile at how quickly a child will happily settle after mum or dad has left. Unfortunately, however the parent is often left feeling quite unsettled and unhappy for the day but if a child does not settle, we will ring you as we do not want unhappy children at school either! Asking a child to identify what is bothering him/her is a hard thing to do. It sometimes takes them a while to be able to articulate it. If they talk to school staff about their anxiety, they say things like I am worried mum will be ok while I am not with her or I am worried that I won’t have time to eat my lunch before playing or, with my own daughter, she finally told us that she was worried about who would pick her up each day. These are easily fixed worries and demonstrating to a child that anxieties can be allayed by talking about them and then finding a positive conclusion is empowering for a child.

Another tip I advise to families where separation is an issue is to break the pattern of the morning. If a child is always clinging to a mother, then the father or friend or other relative can bring him/her. A firm talk that mum can only bring a child to school if the child does not cry or become distressed then allows that parent to return. I have spoken to parents where the anxiety begins at 5:00am as the child wakes up and when I have suggested they get ready quickly and have a picnic at the beach on the way to school for breakfast or some other morning activity which breaks the pattern of growing anxiety I have been told this often has helped too.

I encourage any of you who are having problems with separation anxiety to discuss this with your child’s teacher or with either Deputy Principal or myself. We may be able to give you some other tips to help the morning be a happy time and not a negative distressing one. Our desire is to have happy, emotionally secure students at school and I am sure as we work in partnership for this outcome we will be able to achieve it with all our students every day.

Socks – the good news!

Many people on the uniform committee have reminded me that I have not yet shared that the new socks for our new uniform will be plain white. Therefore, the costs will come down significantly from our current socks. This was a direct response from our uniform survey put out last year where many parents pointed out that the current socks are expensive and difficult to launder. The plain white socks will be available from the uniform shop when the new uniform comes into stock.

Carols – the even better news!

Thanks to the 114 people who returned our survey which asked if our community would like the carols event in 2019 on the Dalton oval or at the College in their indoor venue. 84% of people indicated they wanted it on Dal-ton oval and not in an indoor venue. Thank you to the 9 people who commented with 2 asking could we use the Grace Primary School hall as a back-up if the weather is bad. As we seat over 1000 people at this event (including students and families) this could not happen because our hall would not seat this many people. Others asked why we are not still using the central oval and this is relative to getting staging in past the tennis court fence which is difficult to do however we have worked out how to do this for our fete on 8 June this year. To confirm though – our carols event 2019, weather dependent, will be on the Dalton Oval again this year.

I do appreciate people giving us feedback though and again thank all who did this via the survey.

Trudy Moala, Principal


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