5 Ways to Help Preschool Anxiety
Are you or your toddler more anxious for this huge milestone? Are you terrified that your baby will be left out – or (possibly worse) leave another child out? Will she be the class-biter – What if a kid BITES HER? Oh.Dear.Lord. What if she doesn’t get a smiley face sticker for the day? And then you realize that you’ll sit outside of the classroom door ‘just in case,’ but then people will see that you are crazy… Instead, you can sit in your car outside of the school entrance. That way, you can have a glass of wine to ease your nerves. Wait – that may actually mean you are crazy. Oh Mama. Sweet, sweet Mama. You are not alone. Your baby is starting her educational journey – well, let’s be real, 3 hours with some songs and games is closer to babysitting, but it totally counts. You have been counting the days (months, years) for this moment. This is the sign that you will have a break in your day; perhaps for exercising, showering, and applying actual makeup – you are in yoga pants already. But the moment is now here, and your toddler looks like your baby, and your heart may just explode.
Then there is your child; the one who still hides behind your legs when she is nervous. Will she cry as you walk away? Will she be scarred for life? Or will she spread her tiny wings and look more mature after the first week? This is parenthood. This is the crap that no one told you would happen when you decided to have a baby. The emotions are enough to send you to a looney-bin. But it is all normal. You hear me? You are NORMAL. We spend so much time assuming that everyone else is a better mother than we are; that Suzy Homemaker has her shit together – and that her kid can recite the alphabet backwards by age 3. The truth is that even Suzy may be peeing her pants as she dashed out of the school before her perfect mascara runs down her cheeks. Suzy may be your best mom friend by the end of the year.
My fellow mama – welcome to separation anxiety. Just about every parent and child will be going through some form of it throughout this life transition. So what can you do to help your toddler transition well – and help yourself not need to spy on your child at the school playground from across the street?
5 Ways To Handle Separation Anxiety While Transitioning to Preschool
Visit the Preschool and Explore a Few Times: Make the school a familiar place and your child’s teacher a familiar face. Bake cookies together or make a present to bring the teacher; it will help your child feel connected.
Ask for a Playdate: During open house, be forward and ask a few other parents for their email addresses. Send out an invite for a family playdate or two so the kids can get to know one another – and so you can feel out which parents you like. This will help everyone breathe easier during the transition.
Listen and Watch Body Language: Talk to your toddler about preschool and listen to what she has to say. There are more than words that she is telling you though; watch her body language. She may be trying to be brave for you, but in reality she may be quite terrified. Spend more time snuggling and holding hands during this time.
No False Promises or Sneaking Out: The absolute worst thing you can do right now is break a promise. You risk her not believing that you’ll come back to get her. Follow through with all of your deals (always – but especially right now). When the days of preschool arrive, do not sneak out of the room. A three year old should not look around and realize you are gone without a good-bye. Talk about heartbreaking. Plan to stay about 10 minutes and help her find a friend. Wait until she is playing, give a small kiss and whisper “I love you! Have fun. I’ll be back in just a bit and we’ll get something special for lunch.”
Pack a Transitional Object (for you too): Work on this little project together. Each of you can carry a painted pebble, a photograph, a drawing, a bracelet, etc with you as a reminder that you are nearby and will be back soon.
What helped your anxiety during the preschool transition?