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From Home to School: Supporting Your Preschooler’s Drop-off

The preschool years are a whirlwind of growth and exploration for your child. It's an exciting time filled with new experiences, friendships, and learning opportunities. However, for many parents, drop-off time at preschool can be a heart-wrenching experience as their little ones cling to them, shedding tears and exhibiting separation anxiety. If you're facing the challenge of helping your preschooler cope with drop-offs, rest assured you're not alone. I watched many parents linger outside my classroom door, make their way through the bushes outside of the school’s window (true story!), watching to see if their child would stop crying after being dropped-off in my classroom. I’ve answered countless calls shortly into my morning schedule to reassure parents that yes, their child was okay and had stopped crying. In my years of experience, this is what I have found to help make drop-off time a smoother, less traumatizing experience for both you and your child.

Why the Anxiety?


Before diving into the strategies, it's important to understand why separation anxiety is a common occurrence during preschool years. Children at this age are becoming more aware of their surroundings, forming strong attachments to their caregivers, and developing a sense of independence. The fear of being apart from their primary caregivers can lead to separation anxiety, which often manifests itself during drop-off at preschool or, at times, before you have even left the house.


Build a Positive Routine


Establishing a predictable drop-off routine can significantly ease your child's anxiety. Create a goodbye ritual that includes a few familiar steps, such as a special hug, a quick game, or a favorite book. Consistency and predictability will help your child feel secure and know what to expect during this transition. Let your child’s teacher know what your routine is so they can be ready to support, if needed.


Prepare in Advance


Talk to your child about preschool in a positive and reassuring manner. Mention the fun activities, new friends, and exciting things they'll do at school. Show enthusiasm and excitement to help them associate preschool with positive experiences.


Short and Sweet Goodbyes


While it's tempting to linger when your child is upset, it's often better to keep goodbyes short and sweet. The longer the farewell, the more time your child has to dwell on their separation anxiety. Give a loving goodbye, reassure them that you'll be back, and then leave promptly.


Choose the Right Timing


Consider your child's natural rhythm and schedule drop-off at a time when they are well-rested and fed. A tired or hungry child is more likely to become upset during drop-off.


Stay Calm and Confident


Children pick up on their parents' emotions. If you're anxious or worried, your child is more likely to feel the same way. Maintain a calm and confident demeanor during drop-off to reassure your child that everything is okay.


Stay in Touch


If your preschool allows it, send a small item from home, like a family photo (did you see our IG story of the toddler showing off a picture of his mom to his classmates?!) or a comforting toy. This can provide a source of comfort and familiarity during the day.


Trust the Teachers


Preschool teachers are experienced in dealing with separation anxiety. Trust them to provide the care and support your child needs during your absence. Communicate with the teachers about your child's feelings and any specific concerns you may have.


Supporting your preschooler during drop-off can be challenging, but it's an important step in their development. By establishing a positive routine, preparing in advance, and staying calm and confident, you can help your child navigate separation anxiety and create a positive association with preschool. Remember that this phase is temporary, and with time, patience, and love, your child will grow more comfortable with drop-offs and continue to thrive in their preschool environment.


You’ve got this!


Christine


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