Any kid would be nervous on their first day of school. No matter how excited they may be to start a new semester, it’s still an entirely new environment for them. While it could also leave you to worry when your child starts crying frantically and won’t let you go, this reaction is to be expected especially if this would be the first time they would ever be separated from you. So if your child is just about to start preschool then it’s normal for them to suddenly feel anxious and cling on to you when you drop them off to school.
Separation anxiety is actually normal and experts have found that it starts when your child is around 9 months old and all the way to when they turn 14 to 18 months. These anxieties gradually go away once your child starts to get used to their teachers and peers while taking part in school activities so parents would normally have nothing to be concerned about.
But if your child is still struggling with handling their nervousness when being apart from you, here are a few things you can do to help them get over their separation anxiety. But remember that every kid is different so don’t be too disheartened when it takes a while for them to adapt to new people and places.
How To Handle Separation Anxiety For Preschoolers
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1. Get them to participate in pre-kindergarten activities
Before starting preschool, let your child experience being separated from your earlier by letting them join in pre-kindergarten activities where they could meet new people and make friends. Having a babysitter could also help them cope with their separation anxiety. It would also help tell your child’s care centre or babysitter beforehand about their anxieties so that they could do their best to support and reassure them in your place.
2. Spend time with them at the new place before the separation
For your child to fully trust and get used to new places, you could spend a bit of time at first with them at this new environment before the separation. This way your child can be more comfortable and be more motivated to familiarise themselves with the new faces and surroundings. If they see you happily interacting with the new people in this brand new world at first, then they’ll be less distressed and feel safer when you drop them off next time.
3. Leave with a small trinket from home
It would help greatly if your child has a favourite toy or pillow from home that they could take with them to school. Whether it would be a doll, pillow or blanket, this can be a source of comfort and safety for them when you leave them at school. With these familiar things from home, they could be more welcome to settling themselves in new places.
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4. Assure your child that you’ll be back for them
It’s important to let your child know when you’re leaving and when you’ll be back to get them. Trying to sneak out without them knowing would only make things worse for your child so make sure you explain the time you will pick them up to soothe their worries and to avoid leaving them confused as to where you’ll be going.
5. Stay positive
We know it can be distressing to see your little one in tears in front of you but remember to always keep your chin up for it would definitely not help if they see you’re upset as well. If you appear worried or sad, this would only feed your child’s anxiety so make sure to keep a calm and happy expression when saying goodbye as to reassure them that they will be safe in kindergarten.
6. Keep your farewells short and sweet
You may miss your child just as much as they’ll miss you but it would be helpful for them to settle down in their new school if you keep your goodbyes short. Don’t drag it out and keep your farewells brief with a quick hug or kiss as to not prolong the handover.
7. Give them praise when they do behave
Don’t forget to let your child know they’ve done a good job whenever they calm down or behave when you tell them to. Giving praise regularly would let them know that their actions are good and soon they’ll be wanting to calm themselves down when you leave them at school. Keep the experience of dropping them off as a positive thing so that it would be easier for them to handle their anxieties.
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