CanDo Nursery

How to Deal with Separation Anxiety on the First Day of Preschool

For preschoolers, entering a new environment can be frightening. Learn how to deal with separation anxiety for a happier first day of school.

Although starting preschool is a significant milestone, it is frequently accompanied by tears, uncertainty, and heel digging. “The main source of anxiety for children entering preschool is that they have absolutely no idea what to expect,” says Katrina Green, a certified early childhood and early childhood special education teacher at Brooklyn’s Just Wee Two program. “They have spent the first three to four years of their family life learning the rules and routines, and they are completely unfamiliar with the new rules and routines they will encounter.”

You shouldn’t treat the first day of preschool like any other date on your calendar because it is such a novel experience. “Take several weeks before the first day to ease [them] into this new adventure,” says Alisa Clark Ackerman, a New York City preschool teacher. Continue reading to find out how to help a child with “first day of preschool” separation anxiety.

Preparing Children for School
Preparing your child for preschool can help to alleviate any separation anxiety they may experience when you leave. Here are some ideas for acquainting your child with their new surroundings.

Explain the preschool routines. Tell them about the games they’ll play, the kids they’ll meet, and how you’ll be there at the end of the day to pick them up. Don’t exaggerate the importance of school, and don’t make promises about things you can’t control (like making new friends). If your child’s first experience does not match their expectations, school may already appear frightening, rather than exciting.

Meet the instructor. Many preschools hold open houses so that parents, teachers, and children can get to know one another. Many parents will be vying for the teacher’s attention, so make sure you get a chance to speak with them while your child is nearby. “If you show your child that the teacher is someone you like and trust, he’ll have an easier time attaching to her,” Ackerman says.

Go to the school. Take your child around the classroom before the start of the school year and point out the various activities they’ll do each day. Ackerman also suggests telling them the name of the school. “Prepare him for the first day of preschool by saying, ‘Next week you’ll go to Elm Street Preschool and play with the tambourine,'” she suggests. Furthermore, Parents adviser Kathleen McCartney, Ph.D., a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, recommends casually pointing out the school to your child whenever you’re driving by.