Preschool, whether at a school like Sammamish Montessori School or a more traditional school, can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking time for a child. They are venturing into a new environment with new people and adults around them. While some children have no problem letting go of their parent's hand and running off to play with the other children, other children may cling to their parents and experience separation anxiety at the thought of their parent leaving. Both are normal and, unfortunately, you may not know which to expect until you actually drop your child off. If your child begins to get clingy, teary-eyed or doesn't want you to leave, there are many ways you can combat this anxiety and make your child feel more comfortable. Here are a few ways you can easy your child's separation anxiety when they start preschool for the first time.
Introduce Your Child to the Setting Before the First Day of the School
Prior to your child's first day of preschool, take the time to introduce them to this new setting and the teachers that they will work with on a daily basis. Some preschools have open houses where you can come in, see the classroom and meet the teachers. And others will allow you and your child to sit in on a class, helping you all to get acquainted with it. Introducing your child to this setting helps them to understand where they are going and who their teacher is, helping to answers some of the questions they may have. And after you have done so, continue to talk about the visit with your child daily so they don't forget. Saying things like only two more days until you start school with Mrs. Smith, or only five more days until you can play with those big blocks at the school we saw, help your child remember names and settings.
Keep Your Own Anxiety in Check
When you are sending your child to preschool for the first time, you may feel anxious yourself. However, children can pick up on these feelings and this can make them nervous. Try to put on a brave and confident face in front of your child to help reassure them that everything will be fine. And if you do talk to your spouse or friends about being nervous or anxious about your child's first day of school, be sure your child isn't around to hear it
Explain When You Will Be Back in Terms Your Child Understands
Another great tip for helping to ease your child's separation anxiety when they start preschool is to explain when you will be back for them in terms they can understand. Knowing when you will be there to pick them up can help reassure them that you are coming back and that you are not abandoning them. However, you need to do it in a way that the child can understand. Not all toddlers understand the concept of time, so explaining that you will be there at 5:00 pm may not make sense to them. Instead, try stating that you will be there to pick them up after nap time or after they have their afternoon snack. If your child does understand the concept of time, consider placing a digital watch on their wrist and writing what time you will be there. When the watch gets close to the time written on your hand, they will know you are arriving soon.
Create a Goodbye Routine and Stay Consistent With It
The last tip for helping to east your child's separation anxiety as they start preschool is to create a simple goodbye routine and then stay consistent with it. This may be as simple as walking your child into the school, kissing them goodbye and leaving, or helping them hang their backpack up and telling them when you will be back. However, the key is to stick to this routine even if your child is crying, screaming, begging you not to go, or trying to follow you out. The teachers have dealt with this situation many times before and are well equipped to handle it, and once you leave, your child will likely get over their fears quickly. But the longer you stay and linger, the harder it will be for both of you.
Placing your child in preschool can be a big change for both you and your child. And unfortunately, your child may experience some separation anxiety due to these changes, especially if they haven't spent much time away from you before. Fortunately, there are many ways you can help to ease your child's separation anxiety including introducing them to the setting beforehand, keeping your own anxiety in check, explaining when you will be back and creating a simple and consistent goodbye routine.