If you have a child, you probably have had to deal with separation anxiety. Our babies just love their moms and dads – but eventually they do have to leave us! These tips will help your preschooler get over their fear!
As I went to turn around and unbuckle my youngest for preschool, I could see her little hazel eyes welling up with tears. Two weeks into the school year, and she was still struggling mightily with dreaded separation anxiety.
I could not bear to see her like this but I also knew in my heart, this was a good preschool with good teachers, a good curriculum and in the end, it would be good for her.
I knew all of this because my older daughter had already graduated from there and had loved it! (By this point, I was having to deal with my own anxiety about sending her to Kindergarten!)
But it didn’t make the drop-offs any easier. Sure, everyone told me it would get easier…she would get used to it…eventually she would love it.
But as a mom, sometimes all you can see is your little girl crying, wanting you…and you want to help her. ASAP
There Is Good News
The good news here is that:
1) Separation anxiety is totally normal for school aged children.
2) Your child will get through it.
3) You will make it through it too.
Once I talked to some of my mom friends (just another reason I believe you need to find and cultivate your mom village), I created a simple list of things I could do to help my youngest make it through this tough, and thankfully short-lived, time.
Here Are Some Great Tips That Help With Separation Anxiety
1. Send Your Child To Preschool More Often
It sounds counterintuitive but every preschool teacher I’ve ever spoken with has given this advice. We found it worked too – So for example, my girls did much better when their schedule was Monday Wednesday Friday versus going only Tuesday and Thursday because the gap from Thursday to the following Tuesday was just too long.
My daughter had basically gotten out of the school routine so switching to a MWF schedule really helped.
2. Don’t Drag Out The Goodbye
Our preschool has a drop-off car line. At first this seemed unthinkable. But I realized early on, they were on to something. Not walking my girls in and allowing them the chance to cling to me really helped. I open the door, the teacher unbuckles them and they jump out with the teacher.
3. Send A Picture Of Your Family To School
Our preschool would send a piece of construction paper home at the beginning of the year that we were supposed to fill with pictures of our child’s family and things they loved. The pictures were laminated and hung up around the room.
It really meant a lot for me to be able to tell Hazel she could see me or her dad or her sister any time she wanted to!
4. Prep Them The Night Before
I’m a big humongous believer in setting up expectations. For myself and for my children. I’m a planner and an analyzer and I’ve found my kids to be very much the same. It’s amazing what they can handle if we just lay it all out.
I make sure every night I talk to my girls about what’s in store the next day – what they will have for breakfast, we lay out their outfit, we talk about school, we talk about what games they may plat at recess. And then we always talk about how they will see my in car line…
5. Give Him Something To Look Forward To
If one of my girls is having a hard time leaving me for school (or anything), I find it helpful to talk about something fun they can look forward to.
It can be that when I come home we will play 4 rounds of hide and seek. Or it could be that we talk about a fun vacation we have planned that’s coming up. Anything positive that will distract them works.
6. Use A Rewards Chart System
Some of my friends have had great success with a simple sticker based rewards chart. Preschoolers really get into “earning” their sticker for going to school easily and after a 5 stickers, for example, you can reward them with a trip to the park together!
7. Practice Leaving Your Preschooler For Short Stints
This really helped us – Even though I believe that really good moms do go out without their children, it wasn’t one of my strong suits. I always take my girls for my doctor appointments, hair cuts, errands, etc.
I found that by letting my parents watch Hazel for even 20 minutes while I ran to a neighbor’s house helped her tremendously.
8. Find A Show Or Song That Helps Your Child Make The Connection
We just love all the episode’s of PBS’s Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood…I mean how you could not love a show that is the “descendants” of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood?!
There is a great episode where Daniel’s parents go out and get him a babysitter…And there is (as usual) a catchy little song called Grownups Come Back to help him remember that a parent will always come back!
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James Bergman says
I think that you should definitely make sure your kids have something to look forward to at preschool, and that you don’t drag out the goodbye. To be honest, this last part is the reason that I drop my kids off at preschool. I am much better at keeping the goodbye short. It sometimes makes me feel like a hard hearted monster, but it is better for my kids. after a few days, they normally jump out of the car as soon as I am parked.
I agree! It was really hard the first year when I realized I wasn’t allowed to walk my girls into preschool but after the year began, I was thankful for their system!!