What to Do If Your Preschooler Experiences Separation Anxiety
As a parent, you may be discouraged to see your child dissolve in tears or a tantrum when it’s time to drop them off at preschool. Unexplained stomachaches and headaches, self-isolation during social events (like story time or birthday parties), and refusal to go to preschool are other common signs of separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is developmentally normal, but this doesn’t make it any easier for and your child. While many children suffer separation anxiety at the start of the school year, it’s possible for their anxiety symptoms to experience a resurgence weeks or even months after they’ve seemingly resolved.
Fortunately, there are multiple things you can do to alleviate your child’s separation anxiety and help them be as comfortable and confident as possible in their new surroundings. Read on for more information that can help you manage your child’s anxiety symptoms.
Familiarize Your Child with the Idea of Preschool
Children often experience anxiety when faced with new things that they’ve had little exposure to. One way to reduce their anxiety levels is to help them become familiar with the idea of preschool. The more your child knows about preschool, the less likely they are to experience separation anxiety.
You might read books that introduce your child to the world of preschool. You can also see if your child’s favorite TV series has any episodes that pertain to preschool. Many children find it comforting to watch or hear their favorite characters struggle with experiences that they also have to deal with.
Whenever possible, have your child meet their preschool teacher and tour their classroom (and school) before the first day of preschool. If your child is somewhat familiar with their surroundings, they’re less likely to experience anxiety when it’s time for preschool drop-off.
Create a Routine for School Mornings and Drop-Off
If you don’t have a routine for the mornings your child attends preschool, it’s time to create one. Children experience less anxiety when they know how their day will go. Your routine doesn’t need to be elaborate; something as simple as routines for your child to wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and brush their teeth is sufficient.
At preschool drop-off, give your child a kiss and a hug and promptly leave. Avoid the temptation to sneak out, as having Mom or Dad seemingly disappear can cause some children to feel even more anxiety.
Make sure that your child has ample time to go through their entire morning routine. A rushed morning is stressful for any family, but it’s especially arduous for children who already suffer from separation anxiety.
You may also want to implement an evening routine that encourages your child to get things ready for the next day. Your child can help pack their lunch and prepare their book bag and outerwear. Children like have some degree of control over their day. Something as simple as letting them pick what kind of fruit they take in their lunch box or what shirt they wear can give them the control they yearn for.
Consider Scheduling an Appointment with Your Child’s Pediatrician
Though many cases of separation anxiety resolve with time, some children need additional help for their anxiety. If your child’s separation anxiety doesn’t resolve after a few weeks or if it’s so severe that they vomit or are unable to enjoy other childhood activities, schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician.
Your child’s pediatrician will work with you to determine if your child’s separation anxiety requires additional treatment, such as medication or therapy. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy is commonly used for children with severe anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps retrain the brain so that anxious feelings lessen and feelings of confidence and calmness increase.
Ready to enroll your child in preschool? Contact Advantage Learning Center today to learn more about our preschool programs!