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How to deal with separation anxiety

Apr 11, 2010 | By Kelly Boyer

Ways parents can help children transition from home to Preschool.

Preschoolers and parents experience separation anxiety when transitioning from the home into a preschool environment for the first time. Young children become complacent within their home surroundings.
Child experiencing separation anxietyChange is a difficult experience for preschoolers, especially when they are starting school for the first time. Having to rely on someone other than their parents to help them with their everyday needs can be frightening.

Anxiety is a normal feeling when moving from a safe environment into one that is unfamiliar. Reactions to such distress vary from child to child. Some of the most common reactions are crying, wailing, clinging tightly to parents, and whining. Parents can help make the experience a positive one with some important techniques.

Choosing the Right Preschool

Preschoolers need to understand that the world is not as frightening as they believe. It is important that children with separation anxiety are in a school environment that is warm and inviting. Placing children in a situation where they feel uncomfortable can heighten anxiety issues that can later become more problematic. Exploring different schools and asking other parents for referrals can make finding the right school easier. Below are a few suggestions for parents to consider when looking for a preschool:

  • The curriculum is fun and exciting.
  • Activities are age appropriate and engaging.
  • The inside /outside of the establishment is safe and accident free.
  • The staff is friendly and supportive.

Most preschools strongly recommend that parents and children make regular weekly visits before children start school. Preschoolers who have the opportunity to meet their teachers and become acquainted with the environment experience less anxiety.

Preparing for the Separation

Preschool activitiesPreparation should begin before children attend their new school. Talking with children about the experience ahead of time helps familiarize them with what is to come. It can also create positive feelings towards the experience eliminating any negative presuppositions.

There are a variety of ways that parents can reduce fearful emotions. Reading books about preschool or the first day of school are always helpful. It lets children know that school is fun and exciting. Play acting is another great way to minimize stress by demonstrating the types of activities children will be participating in while parents are away at work.

First Day of Preschool

Children can sense when parents are anxious. If parents are feeling uneasy about the situation, children will have a difficult time dealing with the separation. It is important that parents keep a positive attitude and not show signs of trepidation. Explaining to children that the parent will be coming back for them is an important part of the separation process. Abandonment is a common emotion among new preschoolers. During the first few weeks, parents need to consistently pick up children from school. This gives them the reassurance that they are not going to be deserted.

Children playing at PreschoolIt is inevitable that in the beginning children will be crying and clingy. Parents that spend extra time comforting and holding children before leaving them alone, causes confusion and an increase in anxiety making separation almost impossible. Teachers are trained to handle first time preschoolers. Through distraction teachers can provide children with the comfort they need to help them relax. Praising children the moment separation occurs helps encourage independence and gives them the confidence to make it through the day. Some great examples of praises that will help children are:

  • "You are such a big boy/girl and I am so proud of you."
  • "You are doing such an amazing job."
  • "You are being so independent and strong."

Surviving the first day is an enormous feat for both parents and children. However, parents need to realize that separation anxiety does not stop just because the first day is over. This behavior can last for quite awhile. Sticking to the same routine during drop off and pick up will help the transition become less terrifying. Preschoolers through their own discovery will realize how much fun school can be.

About the author:
Kelly Boyer
 is a freelance writer and former teacher, with Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education and an emphasis in Early Childhood Development. She has extensive experience in the educational field, where some of her specialties include helping needy families, working with children who have behavioral problems, and community outreach.
Click here to contact or read more articles by Kelly Boyer.

Tags : kids, children, advice, separation, anxiety, preschool

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