Education Parenting

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

When I send my boy to school this morning, I saw a nervous couple trying to leave their teary tantrum-filled girl in her class. As soon as the door is closed, I can hear the girl crying aloud. The mother looked so heart-broken. I looked at her and I recalled myself being in the same situation a year ago. I can really understand how she feels.

When Little Edison started his first year of preschool in January last year, he cried almost every morning. Prior to preschool, he has never been left alone with strangers. The stress of being left alone at school has also manifested into crying, demanding and clingy behaviors at home. I felt terribly guilty about his overwrought emotions and behaviours ever since he started preschool. He used to be a cheerful and happy boy at home.

With our help and support, he managed to overcome his separation anxiety (in about a month or so). Today, I’m going to share with you my 6-point plan. Hopefully, this plan will also help some of the parents who are dealing with this issue since the school started last week.

6-Point Plan to Deal with Separation Anxiety:

1. Speak to your child about school in an upbeat and positive manner. Encourage them to tell you what they like and dislike about school. Constantly highlight the fun times they had at school, the names of their teachers as well as classmates.

2. Keep goodbyes short. This is VERY important. Sometimes, parents accidentally reward the initial crying and then it becomes a habit. For example, if a parent prolongs the goodbye because the child is crying or offers some rewards to encourage them to stop crying, then they learn that by crying, mommy/daddy will stay a little longer, or that mommy/daddy will bring a treat later. So, a quick kiss and goodbye is important.

3. Trust and have faith in the preschool teachers. Crying children is nothing new to them. If they can’t get your child to calm down, they’ll be in touch with you. Trust in their experience and know that they will have your child’s best interest at heart.

4. Experiment with changing the person who drops them off or having a different teacher to receive them at school and see if it makes a difference.

5. Find out what the school routine is like so that you can tell them in a more concrete way when you are picking them up. For example, tell them, “I will pick you after you finish singing and dancing” if music and movement is their last activity before dismissal.

6. Do set some limits at home (e.g. no hitting others) and also encourage independence (e.g. eat by themselves). This is necessary at this stage of their lives to foster good behaviours. If you let your guilt take-over, you might over-indulge and cause his behaviour to worsen.

However, should your child be the rare one who does continue crying, then it would be beneficial for you to talk to the teachers or principal. If you find that your child is truly not ready, do not hesitate to cut back their hours at school or hold off school. Gradually increase your child’s exposure to other children and adults in various settings before trying school again.

Good luck and all the best, mommies! 🙂


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