Preschoolers and Separation Anxiety

Meet Joey
Joey Smith loves finger painting, building cities out of Legos, and being 2 years old. His birthday was a few months ago, and ever since then, he’s heard his parents talk excitedly about this strange new land called “preschool.” At preschool, he’s going to make new friends, learn musical instruments, explore on the playground (his favorite thing), and get messy with arts and crafts! He can hardly wait; for the last two weeks, he’s rushed into his parents’ room every morning and asked if it was time to go to preschool.

Meet Mr. Smith
It’s the first day of school, and Mr. Smith can’t help but feel a bit nervous. His wife had an early meeting at work today, so they weren’t able to drop Joey off together like they’d planned. But it was going to be okay! After all, they love his new preschool; they were thrilled to find a safe, nurturing environment where he’ll be encouraged to learn, explore, and grow. But even though it’s exciting, it’s all still so new. What if Joey has a hard time adjusting? What if he has trouble making friends? What if he gets hurt or lost or scared? Mr. Smith tries to think positively as he unstraps Joey from his car seat and walks him to the classroom, high fiving him before they walk in.

The First Impression
Joey’s eyes grow wide in awe as they walk into the classroom. Look at all these kids his age! Look at all these toys! And whoa, that playground outside is so cool! He loves preschool already.

Oh no — where are the other kids’ parents? This is weird. He thought his dad was going to stay and play with him, but it doesn’t look like anyone else’s parents stayed. Wait, is that girl’s mom saying goodbye to her? Is his dad going to leave too? Joey begins to feel nervous. His dad squats down to give him a big hug, says goodbye, and takes a step toward the door. Joey panics. He clings to his dad’s leg and starts to cry.

Meet Mrs. Smith
Mrs. Smith’s husband just called to update her on Joey’s first day; it didn’t exactly go as well as they’d hoped. Joey had been so excited to become an Explorer, but seemingly out of nowhere, he couldn’t stop crying, and wouldn’t let his dad leave. Mrs. Smith feels terrible and offers to reschedule her second meeting tomorrow; maybe Joey will do better if they both take him in? But Mr. Smith is determined. He assures her that if they do some research and develop a plan, Joey will love going to preschool — no matter who drops him off.

One Month Later
It’s one month later, and today, Mr. Smith is the one with the early meeting — but Mrs. Smith is more than prepared for their everyday routine! After talking to his teacher and finding out Joey does well after the initial drop-off, they decided to focus on making the transition easier with rituals and routines.

Over the last month, they’ve played games like hide and seek to practice mini separations. On the drive to school, they talk about all the fun he’s going to have that day. Mrs. Smith high fives Joey every day as they walk into class and gives him a big hug before leaving, just like his dad did on the first day! Joey holds on to a little stuffed animal that he can squeeze when he gets homesick, and they read books together like “Llama Llama Misses Mama” and “The Kissing Hand.” His mom puts him to bed earlier and wakes him up earlier so he doesn’t feel stressed and rushed, and she wakes up before Joey to place his shoes, backpack, and lunch box by the door. With a little bit of research, patience, and preparation, the Smiths are ready for an amazing school year!

At the North Tampa Christian Explorers, a preschool and daycare in Wesley Chapel, we believe it’s never too early to start fostering your child’s sense of curiosity and wonder. From the design of our indoor and outdoor classrooms to the interactions and experiences that take place on our campus, everything we do is intentional. We partner with you to provide the very best early experiences for your little ones. Want to learn more about what makes us different? Contact us today.