Leaving your child at the door

by Ginna Ashby on Monday, September 09, 2002

Leaving your child at the door of her Sunday school class doesn't have to be a stressful ordeal for either of parents. Most children experience separation anxiety during their early preschool years. It's a normal step in your child's emotional development. But, take hope. There are measures you can take in order to help your baby, 1-year-old, or 2-year-old have a happy start to her day at church.

Set a happy tone

Make Sunday morning less stressful. Preschoolers can sense your stress. Set out your child's clothes on Saturday night. Label all of your child's belongings and pack diapers and a change of clothes in his diaper bag.

Feed your child before you leave for church. Separation is more difficult when a child is hungry.

Sing a song about church or Jesus while dressing your child. Make up words to a song, using a familiar tune. You might sing these words: "We are getting dressed for church, dressed for church, dressed for church. We are getting dressed for church. We like to go to church" (tune "Mary Had a Little Lamb").

Talk about your child's teachers and friends in her room while traveling to church.

Arriving at the room

Knock on the door and wait for a teacher to open the door. The door of the room is closed so that noise and people in the hallway do not distract preschoolers from Bible learning.

Encourage a child who is walking to walk to the door and into the room. It is easier for your child to separate from you if she is not in your arms.

Notify teachers of any changes in your child's routine. One teacher may take your child while another teacher talks with you and records schedule changes.

Follow the security procedures outlined in your church's preschool policies. You may be required to fill out a sign-in sheet. To ensure that your child is released to an authorized adult, you will be given an ID card, a claim check, or numbered beeper.

Interest your child in the teaching item the teacher brings to the door. A teacher may bring a book, a nature item, a picture, or a toy to the door to help ease the transition into the room.

If your child cries

Tell your child good-bye.

Reassure your child that Mommy and Daddy will be back later. Then leave. Prolonged separations make it more difficult for your child to adjust.

Avoid going back to your child's room to check on him. If your child sees you, it may upset him and the tears will start to flow all over again.

Know that your child's teacher will come to get you if she is unable to comfort your preschooler after a reasonable amount of time.

Don't be alarmed if you have tried these suggestions and your child still cries at the door. Separation anxiety can be a brief period in your child's development or it may last months. Regular attendance at church does help your baby, 1-year-old, or 2-year-old overcome this anxious stage. Promptly picking up your child after church reassures him that you will come for him in a timely manner.

Your child's teachers pray that your child will have a happy time at church. As teachers share Jesus' love with your child, he will come to realize that church is indeed a loving, happy place.

Ginna Ashby is a parent and the director of preschool ministries at Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

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