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Helping Your Preschooler Through Separation Anxiety



Starting preschool is a significant time in a child's life. Although it is exciting to embark on this next adventure, many preschoolers can feel a range of emotions on their first day of school and during their first year. It is also natural for parents and caregivers of preschoolers to feel unsure about approaching this new chapter with their children to help them have the best experience possible.


Separation Is A Natural Response To Change


Separation anxiety can create feelings of anxiousness and even fear in preschoolers. Separation anxiety is a normal part of a child's experience when leaving home to go to school; that can arise at any point during their development, not only on their first day. Some children may seem to be doing fine at one stage, only to experience separation anxiety later in the school year. Separation is complex, and children must develop coping skills to tackle new life challenges.


Learning New Developmental Tasks


When children learn new developmental tasks, they are likely to feel out of control and temporarily lose ground in areas they may have already mastered. When you begin preparing your child for preschool, here are some strategies that may help your child develop coping skills to ease separation anxiety.


1) Warm Up To The Change


Warming up to the idea and the practice of going to preschool is an excellent way for children to prepare themselves emotionally for the change in routine. If you can, take your child to the preschool they will attend to familiarize them with the new surroundings. Most preschools offer visiting days, and others may have special times open for you to acclimate your child.


2) Develop A Goodbye Ritual


Creating a goodbye ritual before the first day of preschool can ease your child's separation anxiety. A practice can provide structure and give your child a sense of control in an otherwise chaotic time. Your goodbye ritual could be like one or more of these ideas:

  • A particular wave or handshake.

  • A specific order of hugs and kisses goodbye.

  • Leaving notes in your child's lunch box to remind them how proud you are of them.

  • Silly songs or rhymes you sing and say on the way to school.


3) Keep A Positive Outlook


Your child will look to you for reassurance, so you must keep sending positive signals that everything is going well. It is always good to show your child that you are fine and they are fine, even as you leave them at school for the day. While keeping a positive outlook is vital to preschool success, be careful to acknowledge your child's negative feelings and not gloss over them. Let your preschooler know their feelings are natural.


4) Stick To Your Routine


Develop a routine that works for your family and stick to it. Preschoolers can adapt and thrive when well-rested, eat nutritious meals and don't feel rushed. Prepare lunches and snacks the night before, and set your alarm to wake up at least twenty minutes earlier so you can have plenty of time to help your child adjust. A great routine to start together is laying out your outfits the night before and having all school supplies waiting by the door.


Stay Focused On The Big Picture


It is normal for your preschooler to experience separation anxiety at any point during the school year. The most important thing to remember is not to sweat the small stuff. Don't let isolated meltdowns set you back; pick up where you've left off and stay focused on the big picture.


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