Managing Separation Anxiety: Tips for Smooth Preschool Drop-Offs


Managing Separation Anxiety: Tips for Smooth Preschool Drop-Offs

preschool drop offs

The transition to preschool can be full of joy, excitement, and some worries. If your child has separation anxiety, you may worry about how they’ll do when you leave them at school.

You can do many things to prepare your child for the start of preschool. Taking a little time to plan and prepare before your child’s first day of school can help them feel more confident.

This guide will provide tips on managing separation anxiety and how to have smooth preschool drop-offs. Reach out to the early childhood educators at New Horizons now to learn about our nurturing early learning programs or to schedule a tour.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety can make the transition into preschool challenging for kids and parents alike. While some kids run into school without even saying goodbye, some kids struggle with intense anxiety when it comes time to start the school day.

Kids who feel anxious about being away from their caregivers may have separation anxiety. Separation anxiety disorder in children is relatively common. Most children have some degree of anxiety about being away from their parents at some point.

However, separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition that can make it very difficult for children to separate from their parents or caregivers. Children with SAD may:

  • Have anxiety or fear about being lost
  • Worry about family members’ safety
  • Struggle with anxiety about their own safety or well-being
  • Refuse to sleep alone
  • Have nightmares about separation from parents
  • Be clingy with parents or caregivers
  • Dislike being alone, even for short periods

Young children with separation anxiety disorder may also have more physical symptoms, including headache and stomachache.

Parents with anxiety disorders are more likely to have children with separation anxiety. While there is little a parent can do to prevent separation anxiety disorder, you can help your child develop better coping skills to handle separation.

Tips for Managing Separation Anxiety During Drop-Off

Children with anxiety about separation may feel sad or anxious during preschool drop-off. This can be distressing for parents and children. However, there are many things parents can do before school begins to help ease this transition.

Here are some things you can do to have smoother preschool drop-offs.

Talk to the teacher

Preschool teachers have plenty of experience handling separation anxiety. They can often find helpful ways of easing the transition, such as distractions, reassurance, or rewards.

If you believe your child will struggle during drop-off, let their teacher know ahead of time. They can provide guidance and reassurance.

Make connections

Your child may feel more comfortable starting preschool if they know other children in the program. Schedule playdates or outings with other children at school so your child will see familiar faces. This can help your child settle in quickly after drop-off.

Send a security item

If your child has a special blanket or stuffed animal, tuck it into their backpack. This reminder of home can help your child feel more secure in an unfamiliar setting.

Practice separation

Preschool drop-offs can be rocky if it is your child’s first time being away from you. In the weeks before school begins, practice being apart. Hire a babysitter or have a family member come to spend time with your child.

If your child is anxious about being separated, start small. Go away for 10 minutes to take a walk around the block. Build up time slowly so your child can see that you always come back. Over time, you may build up to longer periods. This can help your child have a smoother transition into preschool.

Visit the school

Before the school year starts, visit your child’s preschool. Take a tour of the preschool classroom or attend an open house, if possible. Show your child where they will eat, go to the bathroom, and play. Point out where you will pick them up at the end of the day.

Many children (and adults) feel anxious about the unknown. Spending time in their classroom, meeting the teacher, and learning about their day can help your child feel more comfortable transitioning from home to school.

Make it short and sweet

Parents can help their children feel confident by remaining positive and upbeat during drop-off. Develop a quick ritual–a kiss on the cheek, a special high-five, etc.–and do it every day. Then, trust your child’s teacher to handle any separation anxiety that comes up.

Say a quick goodbye and leave, even if you aren’t sure your child is ready. Their teacher will use their empathy and experience to help your child transition into the school day.

Learn About the Learning Programs at New Horizons

Sending your child to school can seem overwhelming, but you can do things to ease the transition and make it easier for your entire family.

Reach out to the early childhood educators at New Horizons to learn about our nurturing preschool programs or to schedule a tour.

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