The Art of Separation: Connecting parents and young children

Separation blues may pop up from time to time as parents and children say goodbye to each other at school, especially after a prolonged break for vacation or illness. With some very young preschoolers, saying goodbye may be an ongoing challenge. As busy parents leave, finding a way to ease the transition creates uplifted spirits for both parent and child. One three-year-old started a trend among his peers: wearable art. Elias’ mom had come into the Expressive Arts room with him before leaving. He wanted her to stay. She would prepare to leave, and, just as she would get ready to go, he would find something fascinating about his art to show her.

I moved closer to help her make her exit, but Elias had a plan of his own. He began attaching his art to his mom's sweater with colored tape.

"I know you'd like me to stay and play, but I'm going to be late for work if I stay any longer," said Elias' mom.

At that point, he took his art and connected it to her arm." It's an airplane?" she guessed. He nodded. "So your mom won't be late for work?" I asked. He again nodded.

"Let's watch at the window so we can wave good bye as she leaves," I suggested. Mom had an even better plan. When we looked outside, there she was flying her arm in circles up and down and twirling around. Her son and his friends were laughing appreciatively at her flying. Elias continued smiling as he turned from the window towards the art-making table.

The next day when a friend was having a hard time separating, he made a helicopter and gave it to the parent. "So you won't be late to work," Elias said as he smiled. He flew the helicopter demonstrating how it would take her to work on time.

The next week, when Elias' dad dropped him off at Expressive Arts, Elias made him another airplane out of paper. He used a long piece of colored tape to attach the tiny plane to his dad's chest. Having learned how to self-soothe during separation, he said goodbye at the window and eased happily into his day.

Elyse airdad
Elyse airdad

Guidelines for Teachers

  • Set up a "Goodbye Table" with paper, markers,  hole punch, string, ribbons,  colored tape.
  • Suggest that the family sit  together at the table. Here the child, assisted by his parent, can create artwork to accompany the parent into their day.
  • All art does not have to be wearable. It is definitely a stylistic preference of both child and parent.
  • Here's another example: An  airplane of corrugated paper taped to a drawing that the parent can carry home or to work. While the original drawing had tears of sadness, the child was smiling when the airplane was taped on.
Elyse airplane drawing
Elyse airplane drawing

With the facilitation of parents and teachers, emotions can move through quickly, easefully and artfully.

Product Recommendations from Discount School Supply®:1/2" Colored Masking Tape - set of 10 (CLRMSET) 9x12" White Sulfite Paper - 500 sheets (9SU) Colorations® Super Washable Chubby Markers - set of 256 (256CHB) One Hole Punch (OHP) Colorations® Acrylic Yarn - set of 12 (YARN) 400 Feet of Satin Ribbon - 16 spools (SATIN)