With each cycle of separation and attachment, the child becomes a newly evolved person. Each process of separation and attachment always has a physical and psychological component for the child’s growth. One must separate in order to live well in the next environment.
Dr. Montanaro, who studied under Montessori, compared separation to a gate or door where a person advances through the gate to a better environment. An environment where the person will be able to learn the lessons that he/she were put on the earth to learn. Montanaro stated, “The road is always the same and when we come to a point of separation it is because we are taking in more information.”
In regards to child development, separation must be viewed as an opportunity where something new is being offered and one must go and get it. Yet, separation is often met with struggle and rejection as opposed to joy. Change is a difficult process because the comfort of what one knows needs to be left behind in order to move forward with development. One cannot always bring everything they have into the next phase of life; one must leave what is not necessary in order to gain what is necessary. One knows that there is truly no gain without loss. In some ways, to lose can become a benefit; one will now have room to gain. The work of separation requires great internal strength.
What You Can Do as a Parent to Assist in Positive Separation From an Educator’s Perspective
Separation is a benefit to the child: entering a school environment will increase the possibility of movement, increase language development, and increase social skills. The entrance into the school community is a separation that is an opportunity for your child to receive more than what the home can give them alone. Your child will now have the benefits of both the home and school environments.
Children will feel the feelings of the adult. You need to know if you are feeling anxious, tense, and uncomfortable with separating from your child it will automatically transfer to your child and he/she will feel the exact same way whether you voice your concerns or if you body displays those concerns through movement and or appearance. Do your best to not only speak positively about school in front of your child, but to also display your positive feelings with your physical movement. Your child should not receive mixed messages regarding the transition because it will negatively affect the process.
Try to have your child walk into school on his/her own. Our school is a child-centered space, the campus is their environment, let them own the idea that this environment welcomes them, supports them, and is built for them. By walking in to school on their own, it reinforces those ideas central for their growth.
It is not helpful to physically attach to the child at the exact moment of separation. Instead, at the point of separation, you need to verbalize to the child that you are leaving, but will be returning when school is over.
Of course, as parents, you will be very curious about what your child has been experiencing while he/she was separated from you…but DON’T interrogate your child right away. It can be very overwhelming for your child at the moment of reuniting and you will probably get a response or either, “Nothing” or “I played.” Instead, say to your child, “I am excited to hear about your favorite lesson.” Or ask your child, “What was the best part of your day?” Don’t forget to model the conversation by also sharing what you did while your child was at a school including what you liked and what you worked on.
And as an alternative to saying, “I missed you,” we suggest that instead you might say, “I am so glad to see you.” The second phrase conveys the same sentiment but does not project an unnecessary feeling of guilt onto the child. If a child already senses your anxiety about school and then you tell him/her that you missed them terribly, your child will go into people pleasing mode and could reject adapting to school because your child will think that is what you want from him/her.
Ms. Liz & Ms. Leci