Navigating Separation Anxiety: How to Get Your Child Ready for Preschool

Separation anxiety is a common part of children's development. When a child is afraid of being away from their parents or carers, they might cry or cling to their parents. 

Before your child makes the big transition to start preschool for the first time, you can visit the preschool together or play school at home to familiarise your child with the activities in school. 

You can also prepare your toddler for preschool by using everyday experiences as learning opportunities. For example, you can practice separation sessions – start with short ones and work towards longer ones. 

separation anxiety

Comfort your child by using language that he or she can understand. Reassure your child that you will be back and that it is ok to be upset. Use words and cuddles to comfort and tell your child you love them. 

Prior to starting preschool, read books about preschool and use pretend play to help your toddler understand the transition. Visit the new preschool and play there to familiarise and increase their comfort and confidence in this new setting. 

It is common for young children to demonstrate their separation anxiety through protest, despair, or overattachment. They might refuse to go to school, refuse to be alone, throw tantrums and be clingy. They might also be afraid to go to sleep without their primary caregiver or have nightmares about being separated. 

Overattachment also persists at home, where children will often “shadow” one parent from room to room.

Parenting Tips to Cope with Separation Anxiety

Help your preschooler cope with separation anxiety with this list of tips for parents both before starting preschool and beyond the first day. 

1. Confront Parental Ambivalence 

It is normal for parents to worry about the transition to a new preschool classroom. Our kids can pick up on our instincts. If we hesitate or feel anxious, our kids may pick up on parental ambivalence and feel the same. 

separation anxiety

Hence, talk your feelings out with your spouse or a friend who knows the drill to get some perspective. Get to know the school and teacher in advance or talk to other parents involved in the school to gather support.

2. Create a Specific Goodbye Ritual 

Prior to the first day of preschool, create a ritual to practice with your child such as a special handshake or wave to ease some of the anxiety about that final goodbye. 

You can also pack a transitional object (e.g. a small photo or a special charm) in your child’s backpack or a love note in the lunch box to remind your child you love them and will return soon.

3. Make Your Good-bye Quick 

At the drop-off point, keep the goodbye short and sweet. Do not linger or prolong the transition time. 

4. Keep Your Promise 

Young children can experience anticipatory anxiety. Hence, make sure you arrive on time to pick up your child. This will help him feel more secure and over time, increase his trust in you. 

5. Stick to a Routine 

Children who are well-rested, healthy and not rushed tend to be more cooperative and well-behaved. Wake up 20 minutes before your kids to factor in extra time for you, and pack the school gears the night before so it is ready for you in the morning. 

Book a tour with Us! 

Schedule an appointment with our teachers and find out how we help your child cope with separation anxiety and settle into their new routine at Little Footprints Preschool. 

little footprints preschool

Come visit us at your preferred Little Footprints Preschool centre and check out our learning programmes for your little one. Book a tour at the centre most convenient for you and let us be a part of your child’s early childhood education journey.


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