Tips for Reducing Your Child’s Separation Anxiety at Preschool Drop-off Time – Part 3

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

Tip 1: Be an Early Bird

Tip 2: Develop a Routine

Tip 3: Talk it Out and Read Out Loud

Help reduce your child'separation anxiety

When saying goodbye, let your child know you are leaving.  Slipping away is not the solution and in fact makes a child more anxious when they can’t find you. As a teacher, I frequently see this happen and it hinders children from developing a healthy goodbye process. Verbalize every action to your child.  Let your child know you are leaving and that you will be picking him or her up at a certain time. For example, you might say, “I’m going to leave in five minutes and go to work. I’ll come back and pick you up after you’ve eaten lunch.” Talk your child through the posted classroom schedule for the day so he or she knows what to expect.  You might say, “This morning you will paint and build with blocks. Later, you will sing songs and read a book with your teacher.  After that, you will play outside in the playground and then get ready for lunch.”

Parents should also remember to speak to children about separation anxiety in a positive and upbeat manner. For example, avoid saying things like, “Big boys don’t cry at school.” Instead, you might say, “I know you’re sad to see me leave. I will miss you too and will be back after you have recess this afternoon to pick you up.” Children show emotion through crying and it’s normal for them to do so. Acknowledging their emotions is an important part of helping them cope with separation anxiety. Remind children of all the fun and exciting offerings school has to provide. “Wow! You’re going to paint at the easel today – what do you think you’ll paint?”

In addition to talking with your child about preschool, reading with your child about preschool can be just as important. Books such as Llama, Llama Misses Mama (by Anna Dewdney), The Night Before Preschool (by Natasha Wing and Amy Wummer), and Preschool Day Hooray! (by Linda Leopold Strauss), help children understand what might happen and what to expect on the first day of school . And as a bonus, by reading with your child, you will help him or her develop a lifelong love of reading.

Has talking through the goodbye process helped make goodbye-time a tear-free time when dropping your child off for preschool or child care?


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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