Preschool is a significant turning point for your child. It marks the start of their formal education, where they will establish friendships and be engaged in various new experiences. While it is an exciting time, it can also be nerve-wracking for them. Separation anxiety in preschoolers is expected because of the changes to their routine as they spend more time away from their primary caregiver.
In the initial days or weeks of starting preschool, your child may be clingy, have tantrums, or resist new interactions. These are typical manifestations of separation anxiety, and fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help ease the stress of starting preschool.
1. Get your preschooler warmed up
Take your child to visit the school or childcare facility a few times before starting the first official day. They will become more familiar with the environment and feel comforted by your presence during the visit. It is also an opportunity to get to know the teachers and childcare assistants and learn more about the school’s routines.
2. Make use of brief separations
Practice doing brief separations well before the start of the school year. Doing these practice runs enables you to gauge the degree of separation anxiety your preschooler is experiencing, but it also facilitates their acclimatisation to being apart. Leaving your child with a relative or a babysitter for brief periods will help them get used to having periods away from you.
3. Use expert assistance
Teachers and childcare facilitators are specialists in handling children, so tap on their support. They can help by soothing your child with a hug and offering strategies to cope with separation anxiety. While it is tempting to sneak out and leave before your child sees you, saying goodbye with a quick exit lets them know you are going. A teacher can then step in to keep them occupied with little tasks.
4. Develop an effective routine
Kids perform at their best when they get enough sleep, eat a healthy meal, and don’t feel pressured. If a young child wakes up tired, the whole day turns into a struggle. Being prepared in the morning and having a routine that works minimises the chaos that can cause stress for both you and your child.
5. Persevere through regression
One week your child might do just fine being away from you, and then the next week, they have a meltdown when you leave them at preschool. They might also regress at home by refusing to put on their clothes or feed themselves. When young children are exposed to a lot of change at once, they occasionally revert to baby behaviours because they feel more needy and insecure. This is usually temporary, but you can help them develop mature and appropriate ways to express challenging emotions through loving reassurance, encouragement, and praise.
While some preschoolers bounce into school on the first day, most don’t. It is a psychologically normal and healthy response when a young child expresses anxiety over leaving a parent. So, even if your emotions may be at their breaking point, remember that your child’s angst is typical for this developmental period. Children can sense when their parents are stressed, and it can rub off on them, so staying positive, confident, and cheerful with every goodbye is essential.