The start of a new school year is an exciting time, but it can also be challenging for both children and parents, especially when it comes to separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a normal developmental stage where children experience distress when away from their primary caregivers. It typically starts around 6 to 8 months of age, peaks between 10 to 18 months, and can continue in various forms up to age 3 and beyond. It is entirely normal for preschool children to experience separation anxiety, particularly during significant transitions such as starting school for the first time or returning after a break. Here are some strategies to help ease the separation process and make the beginning of the school year a positive experience for everyone.

Preparing for the First Day

  1. Talk About School in Advance
  • Discuss the upcoming school routine, what to expect, and the fun activities they will participate in. Reading books about starting school can help normalize the experience.
  1. Visit the School Together
  • Arrange a visit to the school before the first day. Familiarize your child with the classroom, and, if possible, introduce them to their teacher. This helps reduce the fear of the unknown.
  1. Establish a Routine
  • Start adjusting your child’s schedule to match the school routine a week or two before school starts. Consistent bedtimes and morning routines help create a sense of stability.
  1. Create a Goodbye Ritual
  • Develop a special, quick goodbye routine. This could be a unique handshake, a hug, or a “secret phrase” that signals you’ll be back soon. Consistency is key to providing reassurance.

On the First Day of School

  1. Stay Positive
  • Children pick up on their parents’ emotions. Stay calm and positive about the new adventure. Even if you’re feeling anxious, try to project confidence and excitement.
  1. Be Brief
  • Keep your goodbye short and sweet. Lingering can increase anxiety for both you and your child. Assure them you’ll be back soon and leave confidently.
  1. Trust the Teachers
  • At Kids Joy, our teachers are experienced in handling separation anxiety. Trust them to take over and comfort your child once you leave. Rest assured that your child is safe in our school.

Strategies for Returning Children

  1. Reinforce the Routine
  • Returning children might also experience anxiety after a break. Reinforce their school routine and remind them of the fun activities and friends they’ll see.
  1. Encourage Independence
  • Let your child choose their snack or pack their school bag. Feeling in control can reduce anxiety.
  1. Share Positive Memories
  • Remind your child of the positive experiences they had at school last year. Look at photos, talk about friends, and recall favourite activities to rekindle excitement.


General Tips for Managing Separation Anxiety

  1. Stay Consistent
  • Stick to the drop-off routine and make sure you arrive atleast 5 minutes before school is over, so that your child doesn’t have to wait for you. This will also help your child’s not be anxious as other children are being picked up. Consistency helps your child know what to expect and reduces anxiety.
  1. Acknowledge Their Feelings
  • It’s important to validate your child’s feelings. Let them know it’s okay to feel sad or anxious, and reassure them that these feelings are normal and will pass.
  1. Stay Connected
  • Give your child a small token to keep with them, like a family photo or a favourite toy. This can provide comfort and a sense of connection throughout the day.
  1. Be Patient
  • Adjusting to preschool takes time. Be patient and give your child plenty of encouragement and support as they go through this new experience.

Separation anxiety is a natural part of early childhood development, and with the right strategies, you can help your child feel more secure and confident about starting or returning to preschool. Remember, your support and reassurance are key to helping your child thrive in their new school environment.

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