With the school year starting, many children are in a state of transition. This year, my daughter starts kindergarten and my son preschool. My daughter was born ready to fly. She is social, fiercely independent, and ready to take on whatever is in front of her. My son, on the other hand, is more of a mama’s boy. Often, he holds my hand in the house. While he insists on doing things by himself, he seeks me out frequently throughout the day and can regularly be found sitting in my lap. Yesterday, he admitted to me that he’s scared to start preschool. He shared that it’s because I’ll “drop [him] off and leave.” It broke my heart to hear him say this. I had noticed an overall lack of enthusiasm when school had been brought up, but I didn’t realize that he actually felt reluctant. While I don’t think preschool is necessary, I know he will benefit greatly from the program my daughter went through. And so, my goal right now is to make him feel as comfortable as possible with this big change in his little life. If you find you and your child are in a similar predicament, there are some very simple strategies that can help ease separation anxiety in young kids.
Ease Separation Anxiety In Young Kids with these Tips
1. Create social stories that address your child’s fear and illustrates him or her overcoming said fear.
Social stories are stories wherein social cues, perspectives, and responses are described in a constructive, calm, and reassuring way. To help ease separation anxiety in my son, I’ve told him I won’t be dropping him off and leaving when he first starts school. I will stay as he gets his indoor shoes on. I will come into the classroom and wait until he’s having fun with friends before I leave. This has eased his feelings of worry. And, he’s started informing family members and passers-by, “When I go to preschool, Mama isn’t going to just drop me off. She’s going to wait until I’m with friends.” You can adapt the story to outline the process of going to daycare or for when Mom and Dad are leaving for a date night.Does your child have separation anxiety? Check out these tips #parenting Click To Tweet
2. Schedule in time to ease the transition.
If you’re leaving your child with a sitter, schedule time for you to be with the sitter and your child before leaving. When first starting daycare or school, stay until their teacher has greeted them, or until they find an activity to join in. Be sure to discuss with your child what the plan is. Explain when you will be leaving and when you will be back.
3. Let them know when you’ll be back and stick to that plan.
Though preschoolers and toddlers can’t tell time, explaining what their time away from you will be like and when you will be back help greatly. For instance, I have started telling my son, “Mama will be gone for a couple of hours. I will come back before lunchtime. We will be together for lunch.” In the case of daycare, this can be adapted to talk about dinner time. Or in the case of datenight, “You will be sleeping when we get home. But we will see you in the morning.”
4. Have a quick goodbye ritual, but don’t skip goodbye.
While you should allow for enough time to help your child feel a bit more at ease, prolonging the inevitable isn’t helpful either. Once a child has had a moment to familiarize themselves with their sitter, classroom, or similar, you should make your exit. Just because your child might be distracted, do not leave without saying goodbye. Sure, this may make them sad when they were otherwise distracted. However, you’re actually in this for the long game. Children can feel especially anxious and vulnerable when parents leave without notice. Routines help children feel more in control because they understand what will come next.
5. Purchase or borrow children’s books that will empower your child.