by Niyati Mehta
The first day of preschool comprises of a strange mix of excitement and anxiety for parents and children. As a parent, you may believe that your child is ‘prepared’ for school, especially when you’ve spent weeks talking to them about how he/she is a ‘big’ boy/girl, now ready to learn new things and make new friends. But no matter how prepared you feel that final goodbye can leave even the most excited toddler and confident parent in tears, and that’s for a good reason. Separation is tough. It is highly common for children to experience separation anxiety, at least for the first few weeks of school. Psychologists, in fact, believe this form of anxiety to be an integral part of early childhood development, so don’t fret!
The symptoms – Crying, temper tantrums and clinging to parents are all triggers of anxiety in preschoolers. As you prepare to drop your child off at preschool, here are some techniques you could use to help your child cope with this important transition:
- Begin an experiment a few weeks before school begins. Take away your child’s favorite blanket or soft toy for some time. Slowly increase the time frame from a few minutes to a few hours as the weeks pass. This nudge helps children deal with loss aversion when they eventually leave their familiar surroundings for the first time.
- Accompany your child on a few visits to their school before the start of term. These visits will help your child explore the new environment in a comforting presence and eventually lead to a more comfortable transition.
- A shorter good-bye is easier. But do tell your child when you’re leaving and when you’ll be back to get them from school. Sneaking out without saying goodbye will leave him/her confused and frightened.
- Allow your child to carry a transitional object for the first few days of school. It could be their favorite soft toy, blanket or any object which gives them security and comfort in a new environment.
Having a consistent routine leading up to school time helps in soothing anxiety levels of toddlers, and eventually gives them a semblance of what their day will be like. Once he/she is set in a routine they slowly realize that they will see you once school ends each day. This routine acts as a great intervention, eventually making school a daily habit for your little one.
#NFKSays – If your child loves books here are some titles that normalize the subject of separation anxiety in the form of beautiful stories for toddlers:
- Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
- First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
- The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst and Geoff Stevenson