Separation Anxiety in Preschoolers
Many children and their parents count the days until the start of preschool. This is an exciting time that marks the transition from “little kid” to “big kid” and most children are happy to mimic their older sibling loading up their backpacks and heading off to school.
Other children though look at preschool completely differently. They see this as the first time they are separated from their parents, and it can fill them will a lot of anxiety. These children can have a very difficult time separating from their parents.
For these children, they may cry during drop-off, or worse, they may cling to their parents refusing to go inside the classroom, or have a tantrum. This is difficult for the children, the teachers and the parents. If you are dealing with separation anxiety in your preschooler, there are several things that you can do to help them ease into school, and learn to love going every day!
Preschool Separation Anxiety Tips
Let your child meet the teacher
Most preschools will offer the chance for you and your child to meet the teacher prior to the first day of preschool. This is a great idea for all children, but can be particularly comforting to children who you think may have difficulty with separation. This will help them to become comfortable with the teacher and the classroom as well. The more familiar the setting, the easier it may be for your child to make the transition.
Meet with the teacher yourself
See if you can schedule a meeting to talk with the teacher alone before the start of school. If your child has had trouble with separation anxiety in the past, you should let the teacher know ahead of time so that she can be prepared to meet your child on the first day and take him or her right into the fold. Do not wait until the first day of school to talk to her during drop off when she is busy trying to tend to the needs of all of her charges.
Watch your own feelings
Parents often project their own feelings onto their children without realizing it. If you are feeling anxious or worried about sending your child to preschool, do not talk about it in front of them. Sending your child to preschool will benefit them in many ways. Keep this in mind and let this be the message you send to your child, not that preschool is something to worry about.
Take a comfort object
If your teacher allows it, let your child bring a comfort object from home that they can keep in their backpack or cubby so that it does not become a source of classroom distraction. They can look at their picture, stuffed animal, or special note whenever they are feeling worried, and then return to the class activity.
Stick to a routine
Do not buy into the “just one more hug” trap! Routine is very comforting for children, particularly those who suffer from anxiety during transitions. Have a routine for drop-off and make sure you stick to it. For instance, you can walk your child to the door, give them a hug and then leave. Do not change up the routine by going into the classroom some days, or letting your child run up the hall to say goodbye again. Once they are used to the established routine, the goodbyes will become much less difficult! Avoid the temptation to sneak out, because that can cause children more anxiety to not know when their parents are going to leave.
For most children, separation anxiety does not last long. Preschool teachers are experts at getting children involved in classroom activities and taking their minds off missing their parents. With a little patience and support, your child will be skipping into the door of the preschool alongside their friends, and may even forget to say goodbye to you some days!