Easing separation anxiety about starting kindergarten

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Separation anxiety is not a laughing matter and is just as tough on the kid as it is on the parent. We offer some helpful tips to soften the blow and make the entire experience more pleasant for both you and your child.

Separation anxiety in preschool children

Separation anxiety in preschool children

Although most experienced parents will tell you that going to kindergarten is a more painful experience for you rather than for your child, this does not always help to quell anxiety attacks when your precious little one cries his lungs out for you.

Here are some helpful tips that you can explore in the quest to lessen any anxieties both of you will experience during the initial separation period:

  • Supervised playgroups help kids interact with others and learn to become comfortable in an environment away from what they are used to. You can start by taking your child to a small playgroup a couple of hours a week where the kids play together while mums chat over tea. In the initial stages, your child may be clingy, but with patience and a firm encouraging tone, it is possible to steer him to focus on playing with the other children.
  • The next stage would be to introduce short activities where you could be present without being a participant. Distancing yourself gradually until your child’s confidence increases is one way of encouraging him to focus on other things and not on your presence. Allowing your child to interact with other groups of children as much as possible is important.  Always remember to be encouraging and reassuring but consciously avoid being too visually present through the exercise.
  • As your child becomes more comfortable with others, try starting him out on activities that are centred around a classroom environment, such as art and music classes. This will give him an idea of what it feels like to be in a classroom.
  • Giving lots of treats and praises is also another way to encourage your child to display better behaviour and less unpleasant episodes every time there is a need for separation from you. Rewarding him with something he enjoys would certainly entice him to adjust better.
  • If your child already has separation issues, take the time to talk about kindergarten long before there is a need for it. Play it up so that it sounds incredibly exciting and to help him ease into the transition. Driving by the kindergarten you intend to register him at is also encouraged, especially when he can see firsthand other children running around and having fun.
  • Talking to the kindergarten principal would also be another recommended action.  Being experienced with separation anxiety, he or she would  be able to give you valuable advice and also be extra gentle and encouraging toward your child.
  • One of the major reasons children tend to have separation anxiety issues is because at some point, parents would have threatened abandonment in some form. This may seem harmless to you as an adult, but it does have far reaching negative impact on a young mind. Always assure your child that you will be there when she has finished his kindergarten session for the day.

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Written by

Tay Siew Ming