Thursday, July 02, 2020

I never gave separation anxiety that much thought until I dropped off my young son for the first time at preschool many years ago. The school had mentioned it at parent orientation and there was a handout about separation anxiety included with a lot of other information in the big packet that I took home. It didn’t seem like it was anything to worry about or prepare for. I didn’t think about how we’d do that very first day, and looking back, I wish I would have!

Reluctance. Guilt. Anxiety. Uncertainty. Sadness. Children and grown-ups alike experience these feelings in full force when it comes to separation anxiety. I experienced them all and I was unprepared and shocked! Being a social worker in private practice at that time, I did what I always do: strategize to problem solve. At first, I was deeply determined to simply find a better way to manage those very challenging times. That effort, however, ultimately grew into a big shift in perspective. I learned that it was no longer just about getting through the moments with less drama or just thinking, “this is normal,” “this too shall pass” or “I’ll just wait it out.” It became clearer to me that I needed to become proactive because I had a great opportunity to provide support and guidance that would positively influence my child’s behavior. What I began to understand was my efforts were not just for that moment; I was growing my child’s independence, social-emotional development and other critical life skills. In that process, I was also learning and growing as a parent and, together, my son and I were building our relationship for the better!

Being a big reading family, I began searching for resources, specifically children’s picture books to read with my son that could help us make our drop-offs smoother. I couldn’t find a book that resonated with what I was looking to do—find a balanced approach to facing and alleviating separation anxiety. One momentous morning during that first challenging week of school, I began singing to my son to lessen the intensity we were both experiencing and changed the words of a song that was playing on a CD in the car. That song became the impetus for writing my children’s picture book and the refrain became the title: “Yippee-Yahoo! I Am Going to School” (available on Amazon). I wrote the book that I wished I could have read with my son that would have helped us immeasurably as it has since helped countless others!

The approach I was experiencing and ultimately created over time became my Program for Supportive Separation™ to approach these developmentally normative experiences as the remarkable opportunities that they are. The goal of my program is to assist parents and early childhood educators in the tri-state area (and via web technology for those in other locations) apply practical strategies to alleviate separation anxiety, so that children can participate fully in whatever setting they are being dropped off at. More importantly, the overall goal is to help children build critical life skills in the process. The added benefit, of course, is that adults experience less stress and find more opportunities to bring out the greatness in a child.

Once I began focusing on managing separation anxiety, then tantrum behaviors showed up in my life and I saw how countless other parents were struggling to find healthier ways of navigating them. So, again, I went into problem-solving mode! I wanted to find a way for children and grown-ups (myself included!) to unlock our potential for connection when experiencing the gamut of emotions instead of disconnection and growing frustration. And so, the Keep Calm Kit™ was born. Since its inception, it has helped children and parents (family/home support) and teachers and early childhood students (preschool settings) make healthier choices when emotions get intense instead of letting behavior challenges escalate. The Kit not only provides practical, hands-on tools for those moments of intensity, but also helps build important life skills for more connected relationships!

A lot happened since those days and now I am also fortunate to be an early childhood educator, creatively bringing social-emotional learning to the forefront of my classroom, weaving this vast “topic” into the curriculum every day throughout the year. To continue along this path of bringing out the best in children, I utilize my classroom experiences along with my skills as a licensed clinical social worker to support families as well as schools in my capacity as an early childhood consultant and trainer. I provide support (in person in the tri-state area and via web technology to other areas) to both parents and educators for typical early childhood challenges such as separation anxiety, tantrum behaviors, conflict resolution and classroom management techniques from the vantage point of social-emotional growth. This approach reaps unbelievable benefits not just for the short term, but plants the seeds needed for the long term.

I am constantly inspired by all the learning I am fortunate to experience through my life and work. Being an LCSW, preschool educator, early childhood consultant and trainer, and a mom of spirited kids, motivates me to generate programs and products that offer proactive strategies to manage common challenges, customized to help make those moments better, while shaping the development of social-emotional growth—a most critical life skill. When children are emotionally literate they can become more resilient, having greater capacity for building healthier, more connected and successful relationships, and engage in an enriched life!

For more information about our programs and products and to schedule a workshop or training, contact [email protected]—mention this publication to receive a free coupon!

By Randi Goldfarb

Randi Goldfarb, LCSW, is the founder and owner at Zak&Nat.