6 ways to help your child with separation anxiety when starting preschool

August 12, 2019
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    Starting preschool is such an exciting phase in your child’s life, as she moves into a totally new environment. Yet, excitement can easily turn to anxiety – and before you know it, your child is clinging to you, not wanting to let go.

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    Few children separate from Mum and Dad at the start of preschool without showing some concern. This can range from wanting an extra hug as Mum leaves her for the first time, to having a flood of tears as soon as her parent tries to go out the door. These reactions are normal; they should be expected in the early days.

    (Also read: Large childcare centres in Singapore: 7 things you must know)

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    Tears at parting are not a sign of emotional insecurity and is usually only temporary, especially if this is the first time you child has been separated from you. You will probably find, though, that within an hour or two – even on that first day – the lure of the kindergarten’s activities proves too great for her and she begins to edge away from you to sample the new play opportunities.

    Related: 8 preschool problems you should never ignore

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    Here are some other facts discovered by psychological research on a child’s anxiety when he starts preschool:

    – Tears at separation are strongest in the first two weeks; in most instances, a child’s distress declines after this short period.
    – The need to cling to you when starting preschool does not mean your child will have emotional difficulties later on.
    – A child who changes preschool may have anxieties about starting anew again even though she is already used to leaving her parents.
    – In many instances, a child’s normal distress when starting preschool can last up to four or five weeks before it eases.
    – One study found that children who took time to settle in were more alert, curious and assertive once they felt at ease.

    Here are some suggestions to stop those early “teething troubles” from becoming major problems:

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  • Past experiences count
    5 / 10 Past experiences count

    Attendance at any form of pre-kindergarten activity gets your child used to interacting with others. Occasionally, using a babysitter also helps her get used to being separated from you.

    (Also read: 7 things every Singapore parent must know about bilingual preschools)

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  • Reassure your child
    6 / 10 Reassure your child

    She needs you to remind her that she will be safe in the kindergarten and that she will have good fun. Hold her hand, lead her into an activity and keep telling her that you are pleased because she manages so well.

    (Also read: Enrichment classes in Singapore for babies, preschoolers and primary school kids)

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  • Familiarise your child with the building
    7 / 10 Familiarise your child with the building

    You probably showed her around before she started but there’s no harm in repeating this. One of your preschooler’s concerns might be that she doesn’t know how to find her way about.

    (Also read: 10 things you must know when choosing a preschool or childcare centre in Singapore)

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  • Explain pick up arrangements
    8 / 10 Explain pick up arrangements

    You know you will pick her up for home again, but that fact may not be obvious to your preschooler. Explain that you will be back soon (she won’t understand phrases like “in three hours minutes” or “at 11am”), as this will help calm her.

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  • Make the handover brief
    9 / 10 Make the handover brief

    On arrival at the school, find a staff member, give your child a quick kiss, hug and goodbye, then hand her over to that adult. Leave the kindergarten without dawdling. The briefer this exchange, the better.

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  • Praise your child
    10 / 10 Praise your child

    Tell her how pleased you are with her for staying in school a couple of hours without you beside her. Remind her of all the fun she had and ask her to tell you all about the activities she was involved with while there.

    (Photos: 123RF.com) 

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