A very common issue with children who are starting preschool is the dreaded SEPARATION ANXIETY! This is a normal part of development for most children, and in my 10+ years as a preschool teacher, I have worked with many children spanning various degrees of anxiety when it comes to separation from their parents. This anxiety is almost always harder on the parents than it is on the children!
BEFORE THE FIRST DAY OF PRESCHOOL:
* Talk to your child about preschool, explain their upcoming schedule with positive enthusiasm. Use phrases like, “You are going to meet lots of new friends at school” and “You are going to have so much fun!”.
* Bring your child to their school’s “meet the teacher” day and talk to your child about their teacher using their name.
* Drive past the school on occasion and point it out to your child.
* Read lots of books about the first day of school. Some of my favourites are listed at the bottom of this page.
* Practice giving your child some separate space before school starts; un-parented play dates, drop in child care, etc.,
* Encourage your child to become familiar with their belongings – their new backpack, their inside shoes, their lunch container.
* Fake it ’til you make it! Even if you are anticipating your own separation anxiety during school drop off, your child needs to see you excited and happy – they will copy your emotions.
FIRST DAY DETAILS:
* Remind your child that you will be back to pick them up, and that his teachers will be there to care for him while you are away.
*Confirm your school’s drop-off policies. At Little Sprouts Preschool, we encourage parents to “drop & go” the first few days. For particularly upset children, or children starting mid-year, we might encourage parents to stay for a minute until their child becomes settled.
* Don’t be afraid to ask what the school’s policy is for handling exceptionally upset children. Most children settle within a few minutes, but what about those who don’t? Is there a quiet area for them to calm down in, how long do they let the child cry before calling the parent?
* Say goodbye to your child before leaving – don’t sneak out.
AFTER THE DROP & GO:
* Take a nice, big, deep breath – YOU DID IT!
* If your child was crying when you left – remember the school’s policy. At Little Sprouts Preschool, we will call you in the event that your child hasn’t calmed down after fifteen minutes. No news is good news.
* NO TURNING BACK – Do not, under any circumstances, go back to check on your child. Doing so is the guaranteed way to start your calmed child crying again. Trust that your child and his teacher will make it through this okay.
* DON’T BE LATE – This is especially important on the first few days with anxious children. When that door opens at the end of class, your child will want to know you are right there, waiting for them.
* Ask your child questions! “What toys did you play with?” “Did Miss Tracy sing songs?”. If your child expresses sadness, be sure to respond with kindness and understanding – avoid negative statements such as “I know you don’t like it, but you have to go.”
This anxiety usually only lasts one or two classes. In some cases, your child may cry for the first few weeks, or even the first month – don’t let this stress you out. Discuss with your child’s teacher, and above all else, stay positive.