"But I don't want to go to Preschool!"
"Mum don't leave me!"
Separation anxiety is the common and normal fear that children have of being away from their parents or carers. It occurs in some children when they initially start Preschool, and in others it can occur after a few weeks into Preschool when the “newness” has worn off.
Some ways of dealing with separation anxiety that we have found effective are:
- Having a routine for arriving at Preschool.
Routines help children feel safe as they know what to expect. Putting the lunchbox in the fridge, drink bottle in the esky, and bag in a locker is a great way to start. Then if they like to feed the fish or rabbit, a staff member could help them do this after they say good bye to Mum/Dad/Carer.
2. Quick goodbyes.
It is important to remember to say goodbye to your child, as they can feel cheated if you sneak out while they are busy. Also, in years of experience in helping children to settle, we have found that all children settle much more quickly if Mum/Dad/Carer doesn’t stay for too long after the initial orientation visit. Our instincts as parents is to stay and help them settle in, but it usually has the opposite effect.
3. Comfort from home.
Knowing that a favourite teddy, blanket, etc is in their bag gives some kids more confidence, being aware that they can come and have a snuggle with it when they need to. It does need to stay in their bag at other times though so it doesn’t get lost. Sometimes a small photo album is even better, as it can hold photos of the child’s family and special people but isn’t a toy that could get lost/broken.
4. Shorter days.
When separation anxiety is extreme, staff may suggest your child having a shorter day for a few weeks until they feel more comfortable. Sometimes collecting your child at lunch time for the first day, and a little later each day after that until they are there for the whole day is effective.
The most important thing to remember is - it does get better! The Preschool staff are here to help. If your child remains unsettled through out the day, be assured that staff will contact you. And sometimes a quick call to us will reassure you that they are doing well, and will leave you feeling better for the rest of the day.