5 Tips to Overcome Separation Anxiety for Preschoolers
Has the time come for your little bundle of joy to go to school? If you answered Yes, then prepare yourselves to deal with separation anxiety in your kid! Psychology defines separation anxiety as excessive worry and fear of staying away from family members or individuals to whom a child is most attached.
Don’t let worry creep in though! Science says there are specific ways to deal with separation anxiety in children. These tips will help your child transition smoothly from the comfort of their home to a wonderful world full of new things. So, let’s go over a few tips to help children overcome separation anxiety and learn how to implement them perfectly.
Allow Them to Adapt to New Environments
When leaving your child with new people for the first time, make sure to give your child some time to settle down. Most teachers might ask you to leave immediately. Don’t do that, as it might make your child feel abandoned. Controlled cognition, which is the process of intentionally understanding ourselves and our surroundings, is acquired by children at a much later stage. To help the little ones gradually reach that stage, you should practise responsive parenting, which involves being aware and available for your child’s emotional needs and contributes to faster cognitive and social development in children.
Hugs and Hand-Holding are the Best
Just like you nurse your child’s wounds, make sure you give immediate and sufficient attention to their emotional distress. The human mind’s natural response to unfamiliar situations is to fight or flee. The brain releases cortisol, the primary stress hormone, in any new situation, including the first day of preschool. Hugs and hand-holding work like magic in such situations. These affectionate actions give your child much-needed reassurance and the brain releases oxytocin (the happiness hormone). The gestures may seem small, but they have a huge impact on your child and their ability to cope with new situations. So, remember to shower your child with hugs and kisses before you introduce them to a new environment.
You may not want to see your child’s sad face while leaving, but this does not mean that you should sneak away. Such behaviour will affect their trust in you. This mistrust can extend to later years of life and manifest in different ways. To avoid mistrust, let them know that you are leaving but will be back soon. Tell them the time you’ll return even if they haven’t learnt to read the clock yet. This will reassure them and give them more confidence to adjust to a new place. Continue this practice until your child gets used to saying bye with a smile. A handshake, a hug, a kiss or a goodbye song — a goodbye routine could consist of any small gesture. Make sure to create one and follow it regularly.
Short Days at First
Given the intensity of fear that children have on the first day of preschool, it is best to keep the school time short and sweet initially. This is true for all kids whether they are expressive about their anxiety or not. Children who are not very expressive may hide or suppress their emotions. You can ask them about the day’s experience and make them feel that you are there for them. You may not be able to have this conversation the very first day, but the key is to keep trying and children will start enjoying school with time.
Talk Positively about Preschool
Children will not fall in love with preschool the minute they go there. This is natural and expected. Positive talk, however, can turn this around. Give them reasons to look forward to school. A nice teacher or a gift they got from school could be a good focus point. This effort is required only initially in most cases. Children usually don’t take long to make friends. Give them time and they’ll eventually find reasons to look forward to school themselves.
Preschool is the beginning of a lot of fun experiences and discoveries for a child. Make it count for your little one and drive away separation anxiety with these easy-to-apply tips. All the best for the first day of your child’s preschool!