Separation Anxiety

Addressing Children’s Separation Anxiety

Easing Separation Anxiety

Child care or preschool drop-off can be a stressful time for little ones. It is normal and healthy for young children to have a strong attachment to their parents.

Young children’s attachments and their ability to separate from their parents varies by age. For the first year, separation from parents, such as going to child care, is difficult because children are afraid their parents will not return. As children get older, they should begin to feel more comfortable with familiar adults, but can still be concerned about their parents leaving them.

Preparing for a New Child Care Provider or Preschool

  • Visit the child care center or family child care home ahead of time to meet the teachers or child care provider.
  • Tell your toddler or preschooler what will happen at child care.
  • Read stories to your child about going to child care
  • If possible, let your child stay at the child care center or family child care home for short periods of time to get used to it.
  • Give the teacher information to help her make your child feel at home.

Addressing Your Child’s Separation Anxiety

Infants and Toddlers (birth to 3 years)

  • Establish “getting ready” routines, such as letting your child help you pack his bag or pick out clothing to wear.
  • As you place your child’s things in the cubby at child care, explain what you are doing.
  • While holding your infant, let her look around. Walk around with your baby and tell her what is happening.
  • Tell your child you are leaving, where you will be and when you will be back. Do not sneak out.
  • Give hugs and kisses, and let the teacher take her.
  • Once you have said good-bye, leave quickly.
  • If allowed, give your child “security objects” from home (such as a blanket or a favorite toy).
  • Hang family pictures in your child’s cubby.

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)

  • Develop “getting ready” routines, such as having your child choose his own clothes for the day.
  • Encourage your child to participate in ongoing activities and play with friends.
  • Tell your child you are leaving, where you will be, and when you will be back.
  • Let your child participate in the good-bye routine by making up special good-bye sayings, such as “See ya later, alligator.”
  • When you say good-bye, let your child decide if she wants a hug or kiss.
  • Once you have said good-bye, leave quickly.