He is an extremely brave little guy, sitting all alone at the back-end of a huge touring car, ready to go into the mountains. I am standing on the parking, waving him goodbye for the day. When the bus starts moving, the distance between me and my little boy is quickly growing, and soon the bus is out of sight. My five-year-old son is on his own. A little Dutch dude in the Swiss alps.
I feel the separation anxiety in my entire body. I am sure that my son feels the same.
He didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language and wasn’t a great skier either. More than enough reason for him to just put his heels in the sand and refuse to go. How is it possible for my son to behave so much more mature than his age suggested? I am certain that my carefully considered 4-Pillar-Bridge approach was instrumental in this. The four pillars of my bridge:
Pillar 1 – Prime the New Caregiving Relation
My son feels a lot of comfort and trust in following me as his main caregiver, and dad. The challenge for me was to transfer my caregiving position to the ski instructor, his new caregiver for the day. I contacted the ski-school to find out that Tom was going to be the ski instructor for my son. After a short conversation I learned that Tom had three kids himself, was around my age and loved to build Lego marble tracks. I shared all of this with my son and confirmed to him that Tom and I are in the same “team”.
Pillar 2 – Matchmaking
At the parking I had a short conversation with Tom, to confirm our good “team-spirit”. My son was carefully observing it all from a lower viewpoint. Only after this thoughtful conversation I went on my knees to match the viewpoint of my son – Tom did the same. Between the three of us, we confirmed the good mood.
These first two pillars brought my son halfway the bridge.
He was confident with his new caregiver for the day. In spite of the fact that he only met him that same morning for the first time.
Pillar 3 – Focus on the Next Connection
In our communication I was continuously focusing on our next moment of connection – “what remains the same”. I did not emphasize the separation that was coming.This approach enabled my son to bridge the separation ahead of him.
Pillar 4 – Hold on When Apart
While he opened his snack-box my son found a surprise-egg with a small note: “Have fun with Tom today! xxx mom and dad”.With this small gesture he was able to hold on to us, while he was apart from us.
Due to my carefully constructed bridge my son was able to have a wonderful day in the mountains.
Each of the four pillars can be instrumental to bridge separations like: bedtime, school, daycare, playdates and sleepovers.