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Parenting Help: How To Deal With Separation Anxiety In Preschoolers

Updated on January 12, 2012
Pouting child
Pouting child

Separation anxiety is very normal among preschoolers, especially those who are going to school for the first time. It is quite natural for children to cry, whine, and cling to their parents during the first few days of school. They are, after all, being placed in a new environment with unfamiliar faces.

Though it may be hard for some parents not to give in to their child's heart-wrenching wails, it is important that you make your child understand that you cannot be with him all the time. Here's what you can do to bring down stress levels both for you and your child.

Prepare your child for the separation.

While you're eating breakfast, for example, plant the suggestion that you are leaving and that your child can cope by saying, "I know you're such a big girl and that you'll be fine in school while I go to the office."

Tell your child what you will be doing while you're gone.

This reassures him that you are not leaving because you don't want to be with him anymore, but because you need to get some things done.

Describe to your child what he will be doing in school in your absence.

Tell him in detail about the fun things he will be doing in school with his teachers.

Reassure your child that you will be coming back.

Always tell him that you will be returning - and prove to him that he can trust what you say by coming back when you said you would. And never, under any circumstance, threaten to leave your child when he "misbehaves." This will make him more fearful, and he will cling to you even more.

Prepare yourself.

When all the preventive measures have been exhausted and you still find yourself with a clinging vine, remember that the crying will only subside once your child learns the invaluable lesson that he can survive without you for a couple of hours. Don't make a fuss or punish your child for clinging; firmly encourage and reassure him instead. Holding, embracing, or babying him while telling him to go inside the classroom by himself may confuse him about whether he should stay or go, so be firm. Make sure you're not the one with the separation anxiety.

Praise your child the moment he's separated.

Say, "I'm so proud of you for being such a big boy in school" to make your child feel proud of his "accomplishment."

Pick the right school.

Children with separation anxiety need a warm environment where they can learn that the world is not as scary as they fear. It helps if the school has friendly teachers who will put them at ease. Also, make sure the school that the school curriculum includes plenty of fun activities.




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