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Director’s Blog

September 19, 2020

Phase 1 of the School Year: Separation

At LPCNS, we approach the school year through the lens of a phase model. The model consists of three phases: separation, autonomy, and mastery. These phases coincide with the goals we have for children as they begin and move through the school year. Each phase builds upon the next and is reflective of the relationships between children, families, and their teachers. 

The first phase to any year is separation. Our approach to separation is rooted in Attachment Theory (Bowlby, 1969/1982; Ainsworth et al., 1978) which draws from the evolutionary theory that explores the biologically based desire for proximity with the primary caregiver. This proximity leads to the formation of an attachment relation between attachment figure (parent) and the child (DeVries & Zan, 2012). In other words, children seek comfort in being close to the adults in their lives. They come to rely on the consistency and stability their caregivers provide and those relationships inform the way they experience the world. 

At LPCNS, we recognize the importance of the bond between a child and their caregiver and the influence it has on a child entering school for the first time...or even by the 100th time. Typically, we support a gentle separation policy that allows caregivers to remain in the classroom for extended periods of time until teachers feel the child has comfortably separated from their caregiver. A longer separation does not equal a bad or unhealthy one. Teachers look for the following signs that children are ready to comfortably say good-bye:

  • Transfer of trust: children extend the trusting relationship they have with their caregivers to their teachers. Teachers are seen as a source of comfort and a secure base from which to explore the classroom. 

  • Secure Exploration: children move about the classroom freely, engaging in activities that speak to their interest. This could be independently or with the support of a teacher or trusted adult. 

  • Ability to Receive Support and Comfort: We look to see if children are able to be comforted by a teacher if they are hurt, have hard feelings, or simply need a space to feel safe. If children are not ready to receive the support of a teacher, that is okay. We look to see if they can recover from intense moments and continue with their day. 

Due to COVID restrictions this year, separation has looked a bit different as teachers worked hard to build their relationship with children and families prior to the start of school. We anticipated that a strict drop-off might feel different and difficult for children (and parents!) so we began to work on the transfer of trust through supports like videos, social stories, and in-person visits. We feel this has made all the difference as children have been readily walking (often running) through the doors and getting settled in to play. Transitions have gone well and we thank you for your partnership and hard work in this process. 


Emily Darrell