Helping Your Child Cope with Preschool Separation Anxiety: Do's and Don'ts

Helping Your Child Cope with Preschool Separation Anxiety: Do's and Don'ts

Starting preschool is a significant milestone in a child's life, but it can also bring about separation anxiety, both for children and their parents.


The fear of being separated from their caregivers can lead to tears, clinging, and distress during drop-off times. However, with the right approach and support, parents and caregivers can help their children navigate this challenging transition.


In this article, we'll explore five do's and don'ts for parents and caregivers to consider when helping children with separation anxiety at preschool drop-off.


Learn more in our separation anxiety webinar with Robyn Papworth.



1. Establish a Consistent Routine:

  • One of the key ways to ease preschool separation anxiety is by creating a consistent morning routine leading up to drop-off time. Predictable routines provide a sense of security for children, as they know what to expect each day. This can help reduce anxiety and make the transition smoother.

2. Stay Calm and Positive:

  • Children are incredibly perceptive and can pick up on their caregiver's emotions. Maintaining a calm and positive demeanor during drop-off is crucial. Your child will be reassured by your confidence and optimism. Speak in a soothing tone and offer words of encouragement.

3. Short and Sweet Goodbyes:

  • Keep your goodbyes brief and straightforward. While it's natural to want to linger when your child is upset, prolonged farewells can actually make separation anxiety worse. Offer a quick hug and a confident "I'll be back" to reassure your child that you will return.

4. Provide a Transitional Object:

  • To help your child feel more secure, consider offering a transitional object. This could be a favorite stuffed animal, a comforting blanket, or a family photo. Having something familiar from home can provide comfort and a sense of continuity in a new environment.

5. Communicate with the Teacher:

  • Establish open communication with your child's preschool teacher. Share any concerns or strategies that have worked in the past. Teachers often have experience dealing with separation anxiety and can provide additional support and insight tailored to your child's needs.


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1. Sneak Away:

  • Avoid the temptation to sneak out when your child isn't looking. While it may seem like a quicker solution, it can undermine trust and increase anxiety when they realize you've left without saying goodbye. A transparent departure is typically better.

2. Give In to Avoid Tears:

  • While it's natural to want to comfort a crying child, giving in to their distress by postponing drop-off can reinforce their anxiety. Stick to the established routine and reassure them that you'll be back. Consistency helps build trust.

3. Overwhelm with Details:

  • Keep explanations about drop-off simple and age-appropriate. Providing too many details about your day or theirs can increase their anxiety. Instead, focus on the basics and keep the conversation reassuring and positive.

4. Prolong Goodbyes:

  • As mentioned earlier, avoid drawn-out goodbyes. Extended farewells can make the transition harder for your child. A quick and confident departure, while acknowledging their feelings, is usually more effective.

5. Blame or Shame:

  • Never blame or shame your child for feeling anxious or upset about preschool. Separation anxiety is a normal part of their development, and they need your understanding and support to overcome it. Encourage them to express their feelings and reassure them that their emotions are valid.


Helping your child cope with separation anxiety at preschool drop-off can be challenging, but by following these do's and don'ts, you can create a positive and supportive environment for their transition.


Remember that every child is unique, and it may take time for them to adjust. Not all of these strategies will work for every child. However, stay patient, consistent, and empathetic, and most children will gradually become more comfortable with drop-off at preschool.


If your child's separation anxiety persists or becomes severe, don't hesitate to seek guidance from a pediatrician or a child psychologist for additional support and strategies.


With your loving support, your child will navigate this exciting new chapter with confidence and resilience.


Learn more ways to support children in our separation anxiety webinar.

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