The first time at preschool or even a new classroom may cause fear, anxiety or sadness for parents and children alike. It is important to remember that separation anxiety is a normal part of child development.
It is also important to remember that a positive partnership between you and your child’s school can greatly support the transition and ease anxiety. Communicating regularly about your child with their teacher allows for children and families to feel connected to one another and builds trust.
As you prepare to drop your child off at preschool, try these strategies to help your child cope with separation anxiety:
Prior to Starting School:
- Visit the school with your child and get excited about their new space (don’t forget to see the playground)
- Address your own anxiety (talk with your spouse, a friend or a current parent at the school your child is attending)
- Understand the process for dropping off and picking up
- Discuss what your child’s day at school may look like and do so with excitement
- Read books, such as, The Kissing Hand, Owl Babies or I Love You All Day Long
During Dropping Off:
- Inform your child that you will not be staying in the classroom and you will return
- Remain calm and confident
- Praise your child for their efforts
- Be one of the first parents to drop-off
- Develop a special good-bye routine, such as, a special handshake, wave or high-five
At the End of the Day:
- Be one of the first to pick-up
- Talk about their day and be specific (“Did you use the slide today?” “Tell me, what did you enjoy during art-time today?”)
- Review classroom work or pictures together
The start of school is an exciting time for young students and families, but it can also be an overwhelming change. Separation anxiety is not only common, but a normal part of childhood development. Following these simple steps before school, during drop off, and at the end of the day can help ease the transition for young students and parents alike.