Clock-Drawing - Another Tool for Easing Separation from Parents

As teachers and parents, we are motivated to educate children in self-soothing. We know that tools to create peace, particularly inner peace, can be utilized throughout their lives.

September is the month when our youngest children are launched into their new classrooms and schools. We cannot have too many tools to help bridge the gap of separation from parents in our toolboxes.

While parents speak the words, “I’ll be back later,” and preschool teachers often read “Mommy Always Comes Back,” our words often fall short.

Last month, I described how dictation and deep listening can be tools for easing the anxiety of separation. This month I’m writing of another tool: Clock-Drawing.

Time can seem endless for a young child waiting to be picked up from school. While most of a child's day is spent in play and interaction, thoughts of home surface quite frequently at school year’s start. Images of home and family surface during transitions, lying down for a nap, waking up again, and when a child is hurt. Along with the images often come strong emotions.

“I want my mommy (daddy, grandma, stuffy)!” is the lament often heard by teachers. Hugs and soothing words are offered and usually gratefully accepted. In addition to the comfort they receive from their teachers, children can also learn to comfort themselves.

Clock-drawing is one of the tools that assists a child in discovering inner peace. I discovered the concept during a time of one preschooler's inconsolable sadness.

Guidelines for Classroom Teachers

After determining when the child will be picked up, introduce the child to the classroom clock and child-sized bites of time with simple questions and information:

  • Who is picking you up today?
  • When the big hand is on this number and the little hand is on that one, your mommy, daddy, grandma, babysitter, etc. will pick you up.
  • Would you like to make a clock of your own? Anytime you miss your family, you can match your clock to the classroom clock. When the hands on your clock and the one in our classroom match, it will be your pick-up time.

Clock-Drawing Activity

Help the child answer the following questions:

  • What shape is the clock?
  • Can you draw a circle?
  • Can you trace one? (I’ve found the colored masking tape to be just the right size. The circumference provides ample room to write numbers inside the shape.)
  • Do you know what numbers these are? (Point to the hour and minute of pick-up time.)
  • Can you draw the number inside the circle?
  • May I help you draw it?
  • What part of the number can you draw for yourself?

Now for the fun part, drawing the hands of the clock. Some humor can be introduced here as to comparing the clock’s hands and those of the child.

Let’s draw the most important part together, the big hand and the little hand. After helping the child draw the hands of the clock say, "This is when you will be picked up." Then hold the drawing up to the classroom clock for comparison before giving it back to the child.

These questions provide more than information. They help to engage the intellect which can provide a less volatile state, one in which the child can feel his emotions without them overpowering him/her.

Some children like to put their clocks in their cubbies; others fold them and put them in their pockets. Like family photos, it is one more tool to help young children manage their emotions.

Clock-drawing provides a child-sized way to deal with the timelessness of his/her day away at school. I’d love to hear about other tools you have found useful.