How to Handle Your Preschooler’s Separation Anxiety

Leaving your child at preschool or a childcare facility can be really hard. Not only are you trying not to cry because your “baby” is growing up, but you’re also trying to figure out a way to calm your child’s fear of being separated from you. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you help your preschooler work through their separation anxiety.

Prepare your child

Talk about childcare and preschool ahead of time with your child. Ask them what they’re most excited about, and talk about the experience in a calm, reassuring tone. Perhaps you could even have your preschooler help you pack their little bag! By preparing for preschool together, you can help your child process what is to come in a healthy manner, which may lessen their fear.

Provide reminders of home

As you pack your child’s bag, be sure to include something special that will remind them of home. Leaving something familiar such as a note in their lunch, a photo of you, or a small stuffed animal can bring comfort to an anxious child.

Try not to linger

If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye to you, the worst thing you can do is stick around. The longer you are there, the harder it becomes for your child to let go and the more hysterical they will become. It’s best to say a few departing words like “I love you, I’ll be back soon,” give a quick hug, and let go/leave. Even if your child is still crying when you leave, a brief goodbye will make it much easier on your child to calm down than a long, drawn-out one.

Don’t tell them to not feel afraid

As parents, it’s easy to discount our little ones’ separation anxiety, because we don’t really know how they are feeling. However, if you can think of a time you have felt left behind by others or have been afraid of new circumstances, you can empathize. Reassure your child that it’s okay to feel afraid. Challenge them to be brave and tell them you’re proud of them for doing big things.

Being left in someone else’s care may cause your preschooler to shrink in fear and cling to you, but many children grow out of their separation anxiety eventually. Reassure your preschooler that you’ll come back for them. Calm your own mind by remembering that your child will be well looked after in your absence. In fact, they’ll probably start having fun as soon as you’re out of sight!