04 April 2021
Preschool Separation Anxiety: Tips for Parents
Attending preschool in Singapore is an exciting milestone in a child’s early childhood education journey, but it can also be accompanied by a common challenge known as separation anxiety. As parents, it is essential to understand this natural phase and learn how to support your little one through it.
In this blog, we will explore what separation anxiety entails, its signs and symptoms, its impact on a child’s emotional development, and most importantly, valuable tips to help your child overcome it.
Keep reading to find out more.
What is preschool separation anxiety?
It refers to the distress a child experiences when separating from their parents or primary caregivers, especially when starting preschool. While it is heartwrenching to witness tears when sending your child to a preschool, separation anxiety is also a normal part of a child’s emotional development often triggered by the fear of being apart from their loved ones in an unfamiliar environment.
What are the signs and symptoms of preschool separation anxiety?
Recognising the signs of preschool separation anxiety is crucial in helping your child navigate this challenging time. Look out for the following indicators:
- Crying or fussiness
Your child may cry or become fussy when faced with the prospect of being apart from you.
- Panic or fear of being alone
They might express fear or panic at the thought of being alone or away from their trusted caregivers.
- Refusal to leave the parent or caregiver
Your child may cling to you, reluctant to leave your side.
- Sleep pattern changes
Separation anxiety can disrupt your child’s sleep routine, leading to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares, or other disturbances.
- Regression in behaviour
Look out for signs of regression, such as bedwetting or thumb-sucking.
- Physical symptoms
Your child may complain of headaches or stomachaches due to anxiety.
- Loss of appetite
Anxiety might cause a loss of appetite or even weight loss.
- Tantrums upon separation
Strong emotions during drop-off can result in tantrums.
What is the impact of preschool separation anxiety on a child’s emotional development?
Preschool separation anxiety, if not addressed properly, can have lasting effects on a child’s emotional well-being and development. It may lead to:
- Insecurity and low self-esteem
Your child may feel less confident and worry that they are not good enough.
- Interference with social skills development
They might struggle with making friends, expressing emotions, and engaging in activities without parental supervision.
- Overdependence on parents and caregivers
Excessive anxiety can hinder your child’s ability to explore new experiences and environments independently.
How can you help your child with preschool separation anxiety?
As parents, there are several effective strategies you can employ to ease your child’s separation anxiety to prepare them for attending preschool in Singapore:
- Talk about feelings
Encourage open communication, validate your child’s feelings and help them find healthy ways to express themselves.
- Preparation is key
Familiarise your child with the idea of preschool beforehand by discussing it positively.
- Practise separation at home
Gradually introduce short periods of separation at home to build their comfort level.
- Preschool visits
Arrange visits to a preschool in Singapore to acclimate them to the new environment.
- Positive goodbye routine
Establish a loving and reassuring goodbye routine to create a sense of security.
- Stay calm and reassuring
Be composed during drop-offs and offer words of encouragement.
- Punctuality matters
Be on time for pick-ups to build trust and security.
- Encourage sharing
Quality preschool education encompasses both fun and educational activities that your child will benefit from. After a day in school, let your child share what they did with you when they return home and offer them undivided attention during this time.
- Stick to a routine
Consistency and predictability help alleviate anxiety in preschool kids.
- Be patient and understanding
Acknowledge that it takes time for your child to adjust to preschool so be patient throughout the process. Be there with them every step of the way and do not expect overnight improvements.
When does it become separation anxiety disorder and when should you seek help?
While preschool separation anxiety is common, some cases might be more severe and persistent. It is important to seek professional assistance if your child’s anxiety is excessive, causing significant distress and negatively impacting their ability to function at home or school.
If you have concerns, do not hesitate to talk to your child’s preschool teacher or a healthcare professional for guidance.
Tiny Steps, Giant Leaps
Preschool separation anxiety is a natural phase that many children experience as they embark on their educational journey. By recognising the signs, understanding the impact, and implementing the right strategies, parents can provide the necessary support to help their child navigate this period of adjustment successfully. With love and patience, your child will flourish in their early childhood education experience.
NTUC First Campus is a social enterprise dedicated to providing the best preschool education in Singapore through its brands, My First Skool and Little Skool-House.
These Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)-accredited preschools have experienced teachers who can help children overcome separation anxiety and foster a sense of security and confidence to enhance primary school readiness.
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