Tips for Reducing Your Child’s Separation Anxiety at Preschool Drop-off Time – Part 1

This is the first post in a three-part series of tips to help reduce separation anxiety when dropping your child off for preschool or child care.

On the first day of preschool I don’t know who is more anxious at drop-off time – the parents or the preschoolers. As a preschool teacher at KinderCare Learning Centers, I know how exciting the beginning of a new school year can be, but I also see how tough the separation process can be when mom or dad says goodbye to their little one. Young children at this age may hug mom’s leg tightly, grip dad’s waist and refuse to let go, or cry. While drop-off time may seem like the most difficult time of the day, there are some things parents can do to make this transition smoother for everyone.

The anxieties a child may feel at drop-off time are completely normal — and so are the parents’!  It’s encouraging for parents to know that there are many positive (and peaceful) ways to say goodbye at school that will help build a child’s confidence. Here’s the first tip for ensuring a stress-free, tear-free goodbye.

Tip 1: Be an Early Bird. 

Tips for reducing your child's separation anxietySaying goodbye is never easy. Breaking into tears or clutching onto mom are all normal ways children react to separation time. One way to ease the transition is to arrive at school 15 minutes early to give preschoolers ample time to adjust to the transition and say goodbye. Parents need to plan ahead and make sure they have enough time on the first day and even on the days that follow for a special goodbye. Children take cues from their parents, so if parents are anxious about leaving, they too may start to feel anxious about saying goodbye. At drop-off time, parents should take the time to focus their attention on their child – this can help children relax and ease their anxieties about separating. You could comment about the children’s art work hanging on the wall or the activity taking place at the table – anything that signals you are aware of what is happening within your child’s classroom.

Has showing up early for school or child care helped ease your child’s anxiety about saying goodbye?


Wendy Lieberman has been an educator at KinderCare for 15 years, currently acting as the Pre-Kindergarten teacher at the Cincinnati KinderCare Learning Center.

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