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Managing Preschool Separation Anxiety

Managing Preschool Separation Anxiety - Playgarden NYC

Separation anxiety: “significant distress when the child is unexpectedly separated from home or a close attachment figure.”

Signs of separation anxiety come up around 8 months old and can carry on in waves through age 4 or 5. Other triggers could bring up separation anxiety later in childhood — big changes in life of any kind can cause little ones to cling to their parents.

Some kids feel super ready to go into school: excited to see their friends and learn with teachers. However, some little ones feel anxiety about going into school and being away from the people they feel closest to and safest with. In order to prepare your little one for drop-off at your closest preschool near me, there are a few things you can try to ease the anxiety.

Preparation for Separation

Avoiding talking about starting preschool has the potential to cause more anxiety. Talking about what to expect can ease worries and make your little one feel more prepared for what is to come. The more prepared your little one feels, the more confident they will feel moving into new situations.

Having babysitters or people outside of your immediate family watch your little one now and then can help them get more used to saying “see you later” and learning you will come back.

When you do leave, have a special goodbye with them — it could be a handshake or hugs or something special you say to each other. A comforting goodbye can help them feel safe as they embark on their day, and again, remind them that they will see you after school.

Trip to School

If it’s walkable, take a stroll by the school you found searching “preschool near me,” and tell your little one that this is where they will be coming soon. Talk about the things they will learn and friends they’ll make, as well as the teachers they will meet. If there is a play area open to current and future students, spend some time there so they can get used to space.

Teacher Help

Teachers have a lot of experience with little ones; we have so many tips and techniques to try when dropping off. Reach out to your little one’s new teacher and ask for any tips they may have to prepare for starting school. Sometimes “Welcome” videos or postcards will be sent out by teachers to families so little ones can get familiar with their new teachers. 

Transitional Objects

Studies show that little ones feel more at ease with an object they find comfort in. It can be a picture or a small stuffed animal, even a sticker on their shirt where they can see it. Some object that can be a small reminder of you and that they will see you soon. A great book to go along with this concept and prepare your little one for separation is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Drop-Off

When the morning comes for that first day at your preschool near me, there are going to be first day jitters, maybe for both you and your little one — it’s totally natural! You both are taking a big step and it’s a day you will always remember. Our little ones can sense when tensions are high or we feel anxious, so keeping yourself calm and at ease can just as easily influence them. Stay present and whatever goes “right” or “wrong,” just trust yourself and your preparation. 

The Good-bye

Your little one has their transitional object, you have done your handshake or said your special goodbyes, and now it’s time for the teacher hand-off. If your little one is still upset about separating, do your best not to hesitate with the hand-off. You can hang back out of eyesight just to hear them settle down, but taking them back or hanging out can hurt just as much as going right out the door. 

Find Support

Odds are, you are surrounded by other parents and grown-ups who searched out preschool near me and are also doing this for the first time. Chat with some parents after they’ve said their good-byes as well, or bring a partner or friend to be with you through the process for support. 

On-Time Pick-Up

Especially in the first few days or weeks of school, be sure to be on time for pick-up. Being late to pick-up can potentially increase their anxiety, possibly resulting in a tougher drop-off the following day. 

Time Away from School

Life happens — we go on vacation, family events occur — your little one’s routines will undoubtedly get disrupted. Breaks in routine can cause separation anxiety when it’s time to go back to school. This is totally normal and it may take a little time getting back into the routine, but eventually the routine will be back, your little one’s anxiety will ease, and you’ll be so happy you found your great preschool near me!

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Miss Julia - Playgarden NYC
Hi, I'm Miss Julia!

Miss Julia has been an early childhood educator for 5 years, with over 10 years of experience working in childcare. She has been teaching at Playgarden Prep since 2017, and is happy to share ideas on some of her favorite early education topics with you! Miss Julia has a BA from UC Irvine, and uses her experience in performing arts to inspire little ones every day in her enrichment classes at Playgarden. In her free time, Miss Julia loves enjoying nature, cooking, and creating with friends.