Sending your toddler to preschool is a big step; one that you’re both like very excited about. But leaving your little one may prove harder than you anticipated, especially if he or she experiences separation anxiety. Separation anxiety happens because your child believes that you are their lifeline and that if you leave, things will go downhill quickly. It can be hard for everyone involved but here are 7 great ways you can make it easier on your child, yourself and the preschool or caregivers.
- Don’t sneak away. It may seem like a good idea to quietly slip out but saying goodbye through the tears is actually better for kids. Telling them you’re leaving for a defined period of time and giving them a big hug and kiss is much less scary for them.
- Keep your goodbyes simple and short and leave when you say you’re going to. Looking back while they’re crying or going back for multiple hugs will cause you anxiety and in turn cause them anxiety.
- Start with short absences. Leaving them an hour with a caregiver or grandparents is a great way for them to experience a bit of independence from Mom and Dad, as well as learn to follow new rules and cues from an alternate authority figure.
- Keep your goodbyes consistent. Always take the few minutes to say a proper goodbye and try to have the message be the same every time.
- Try making up a funny or silly goodbye. Inventing a little song or cute hand actions (like a “honk” on the nose) can lighten the mood significantly and help turn their tears into laughter.
- Give them something comforting to hold while you are gone like a stuffed animal or favourite toy.
- Let them play alone a little more around the house when you are there. Having (supervised) playtime by themselves is a great way for them to recognize that it’s okay to be without you every moment of the day.
If the anxiety seems to worsen and includes, vomiting or a constant state of worry, it’s best to speak with your child’s doctor.
Generally, children outgrow this trepidation or get over it very quickly, especially in school settings. There are so many wonderful opportunities for them to be distracted or amused that their anxiety may dissipate within days.