No tantrums: Preventing preschool separation anxiety

Yes, you can avoid separation anxiety on the first day of pre-school


WASHINGTON, July 19, 2015 — As the summer weeks wind down, many parents may begin to see their toddlers exhibit behavioral issues when they are told about attending preschool. This may be even be more dramatic if the toddler is attending preschool for the very first time. Here are several helpful tips which may soothe your child’s anxiety and prevent a parental emotional breakdown as well.

Separation anxiety in toddlers who are attending preschool for the first time is to be expected. According to Today Parent, the child may suddenly be coming to grips with the idea of what being away from mom or dad means. Therefore when parents bring up the subject of preschool, their children may believe that means permanent separation.

Parents should anticipate that their children might immediately begin demonstrating negative behavior like throwing tantrums or tossing toys, objects and even food. Many child behavior experts consider this type of toddler reaction an example of classic separation anxiety at its most basic level.

Toddlers generally have been surrounded all of their life, except for the occasional babysitter, by their parents. The comfort, love, and security that parents provide daily may disappear in the mind of the child; hence the build up of separation anxiety. With each mention by parents of the upcoming preschool starting date, their children may be experiencing an inner form of permanent life change threat to their safe and comfortable routine.

Pre-school separation anxiety can be anticipated and minimized by engaging in advanced planning to create create a smoother transition for both children and parents.

Make a plan

If parents create a plan that includes the full participation of parent and child, a healthier less anxious child will show up on the first day of preschool.

There is no one perfect plan or perfect approach, so be flexible in how you roll out your plan. If one approach seems ineffective, have a fallback plan.

Do not just spring the plan upon your child. Instead, work the idea of attending preschool into conversation, preferably when your child is in a good mood or is engaging in playful activity. This approach will help your child associate the new routine and new preschool environment with good feelings.

Several weeks before preschool begins, visit the school with your child. This will allow your child to become familiar with the surroundings as well as the overall school environment. In addition:

  • Meet with the pre-school teachers as well as school staff to show your toddler how friendly and caring they are;
  • Join with the pre-school teacher in pointing out the fun aspects of the classroom activities;
  • Show your toddler the lockers where his or her personal items, like jacket, coat, lunch box, shoes and other items will be kept safe and sound;
  • Keep expressing pride in your child for now being a “big boy” or “big girl,” and reinforce this with a treat.

Create a Refrigerator Preschool Countdown Calendar and Chart

The countdown calendar and chart accomplishes several key purposes. Begin the calendar about two to three weeks out. Ask your toddler about the fun things he or she would like to see and do at the pre-school. Place a gold star on the chart every day leading up to the first school day. Remember, your child is learning the meaning of trust; in order to retain and build upon that trust, keep your discussions positive.

Preschool Day

One of the best ways to set up an excellent, anti-anxiety launch for your toddler’s first day of preschool is to begin the morning with his or her favorite breakfast food. Keep the conversation focused on how proud you are of your child. Make certain your child understands that you are close by.

According to Parents magazine, it is a great idea to give toddlers a favorite item that reminds them of their parents when they go to school. Consider giving your child a special small photo album with pictures of both of you. Speak with the pre-school teacher about having your child share the photo album with new classmates.

Parent and child can now build upon a solid foundation that both have created in preventing preschool separation anxiety. This excellent start can lead to a better, less stressful experience in school from this point on.

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Kevin Fobbs
Kevin Fobbs began writing professionally in 1975. He has been published in the "New York Times," and has written for the "Detroit News," "Michigan Chronicle," “GOPUSA,” "Soul Source" and "Writers Digest" magazines as well as the Ann Arbor and Cleveland "Examiner," "Free Patriot," "Conservatives4 Palin" and "Positively Republican." The former daily host of The Kevin Fobbs Show on conservative News Talk WDTK - 1400 AM in Detroit, he is also a published author. His Christian children’s book, “Is There a Lion in My Kitchen,” hit bookstores in 2014. He writes for Communities Digital News, and his weekly show "Standing at Freedom’s Gate" on Community Digital News Hour tackles the latest national and international issues of freedom, faith and protecting the homeland and heartland of America as well as solutions that are needed. Fobbs also writes for Clash Daily, Renew America and BuzzPo. He covers Second Amendment, Illegal Immigration, Pro-Life, patriotism, terrorism and other domestic and foreign affairs issues. As the former 12-year Community Concerns columnist with The Detroit News, he covered community, family relations, domestic abuse, education, business, government relations, and community and business dispute resolution. Fobbs obtained a political science and journalism degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1978 and attended Wayne State University Law School. He spearheaded and managed state and national campaigns as well as several of President George W. Bush's White House initiatives in areas including Education, Social Security, Welfare Reform, and Faith-Based Initiatives.