When you first hold your baby in your arms, you feel like the school years are very far away. Suddenly, your child begins walking and talking, and you realize that it is almost time for him to take those first steps outside of the nest. Separation anxiety in preschoolers is a real problem, but often it is the parents who feel the most anxiety as this day looms.
Preparing your child for the first day of preschool can be stressful for both you and your child. The anticipation of the first day of school can cause stress for even the smallest students, particularly those who are prone to separation anxiety. Be sure to talk positively to your child about the experience. Below are some tips to help keep you positive and to transmit this message to your child.
Watch Your Vocabulary
Tell your child about the teachers and other staff who will be there to take care of them and teach them and that they will make many new friends and have lots of fun. Do not use phrases like “send you to school.” We “send” letters and then we never see them again. This will make your child more nervous than she needs to be. Simply say that she is going to school for the day and that you will see her soon.
Choose the Location
Try to schedule a tour of the school with your child. See if you can schedule the tour for a time when school is in session so that both of you can see what happens in the school during a typical day. If it is an option, choose a place where your child is comfortable already. Does your church have a preschool? Is there a preschool in the YMCA or gym to which you have been taking your child? Your child will most definitely feel more comfortable being left in a place with which they are familiar than a strange new place.
Talk positively about the teachers and director of the school. Introduce your child to other children who may be attending the school at the same time. Your child is more likely to look forward to preschool if he already knows some of the children who will be attending with him.
Bring a Comfort Item
Ask the school if it is permissible for your child to bring along a small toy or other item of comfort at least for the first few days. Many schools will allow your child to bring something to keep in her cubby and go to periodically for comfort. This item may help to lower separation anxiety in preschoolers.
Drop your child and go. Do not hang on. Chances are that your child will fare better if you just kiss your child, say goodbye and go. Hanging on will only show your child that you are worried about leaving him at school. Children can sense your nervousness and in turn will be worried that school is not what you made it out to be. Separation anxiety in preschoolers can be reduced by showing confidence yourself as a parent.
Teach Your Child Social Skills
The first part of preparing children for pre-school involves teaching them simple social skills that will help them get along with other children. If your son or daughter is an only child, this is especially important to do. You should praise your child for sharing, playing nicely with others, following instructions, and saying please and thank you. Since children learn by looking at your example, you should also demonstrate these qualities yourself in a concrete way. Your child will learn to act in the same way that you do.
Place Your Child on a Schedule
A second way to help your child be ready for pre-school is to place your child on a strict daily schedule now if you have not done so already. When your son or daughter goes to school, they will be thrust into a world that is rigidly structured. They will have a certain time that they have to wake up in the morning, eat lunch, take naps, and even play. If you start putting them on a schedule now, it will be much easier for your toddler to get used to a school schedule later.
Combat Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety in preschoolers is a common problem when parents leave children with other people. If your child has never even had to go to a daycare, going to school can seem like a foreign world. You can begin getting your child slowly accustomed to staying with strangers by leaving her with a babysitter for short amounts of time. You should also visit the pre-school and the teacher with your toddler before the first day of school to get her acquainted with the people and surroundings.
Coping with Separation Anxiety in Preschoolers
You will probably find it very difficult to let your toddler leave you when it is time for him to go to pre-school. Putting your child in school for the first time should be a rewarding and adventurous time. It should be a time that you anticipate with great joy. Even though you may be a little wistful, you should still do your best to make sure that your child is confident and prepared for this big change.
Although you will feel some nervousness and sadness when you drop off your child for her first day of preschool, know that she will soon be making new friends and expanding her world; all of which are positive steps in her development. You will be rewarded when your baby comes home from the first day of school with a huge smile.