Caring grown-ups can ease the stress young children experience when being separated from their parents or caregivers for a short time. In this workshop, staff from Horizons for Homeless Children (Boston, MA) share strategies for easing children through these transitions. Explore the videos and resources below for ideas on using the strategies in your own work.


  1. 1

    The Challenges of Separations


    When constantly faced with unexpected changes, children don’t have the structure, routine, and predictability they need to cope with the traumatic experience of homelessness.

    As you watch this video, consider these questions:

    • When a child enters your setting and is faced with his parent leaving, what do you notice in his behavior?
    • What are some traumatic separations children in your care may have already experienced? (friends in school or childcare group, family members, their home itself, teachers or other caregivers, pets, doctors or other healthcare providers, and so on)


  2. 2

    Explore the Strategies

    In the face of these challenges, you can model healthy goodbyes. In the video, providers talked about three strategies. Consider how they each might look in action in your work, viewing the video again if helpful. What exactly will you say or do, and how? Write down one idea for each strategy, being as specific as possible:

    1. Establish routines
    2. Let children know when a change is coming
    3. Celebrate the positives and share memories

    Then consider these questions. If viewing with colleagues, discuss your thoughts.

    • What is the relationship between setting limits and providing a sense of security?
    • What do you think are the most important benefits for children of feeling safe?
    • What would helping children “ease in” look like in your setting? (What opening song might you sing together? What type of greeting might you offer? What might a tabletop activity be?)
  3. 3

    Ideas Into Action: Sharing Comfort Strategies with Children


    You can show children how others use strategies for self-soothing. Share this video in which Muppet show and celebrate their “loveys.” Depending on children’s age, you might sit in a play space with them and say, for instance:

    • Let’s feel this cloth (or blanket or pillow). Doesn’t it feel soft and silky?
    • Elmo loves to hug Baby David. Is there a stuffed animal or doll here you’d like to hug right now?
  4. 4

    Ideas Into Action: Grown-Ups Come Back

    Download printable

    Read these pages of the storybook (full version here) and consider ways to integrate Lily’s mom’s ribbon idea at your site. A bag of ribbons can go a long way!

    Teach children this song to the tune of “Happy Birthday”, substituting any other caregiver’s name for “mommy,” and sing it at appropriate times:

    Mommy comes back to me, mommy always comes back.

    I don’t have to worry, mommy’s coming for me.