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How can I help my 3-year-old not cry when I leave her at preschool?

My daughter cries and clings when I leave her at preschool. She is ok (according to the staff) once I am gone. Help me make this easier for her - and less traumatic for me as well!


Charity | Expert

Charity

Nothing rips your heart out more than a child clinging to you and pleading for you not to leave!  I think that most parents have experienced this at one time or another.  

There are a couple of things you can keep in mind to make the transition easier:

First, make your goodbyes brief.  Dragging goodbyes out only causes  emotions to escalate.  I know your instinct is to give lots of hugs and reassurance, but too much can actually give credence to his anxiety.  

Number two, keep a positive attitude.   Talk to him about preschool when you are at home.  Remind him of the fun things he likes to do in preschool.  Try to think of something he can be excited about for the next day of school.  

Third,  if the school allows it, let him take a security object.  

Finally, if your child is not on a sleeping schedule, now might be the time to get him on one.  A tired child is a cranky child, so be sure he is well rested.

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Heather | Expert

Heather

When we prepared our kids for preschool, we started talking about it at least six months before they were going.  We would drive by and say, "See?  This is where all of your new friends are going to go to school with you." 

We also started introducing worksheets before they started.  Our kids practiced drawing letters and cutting paper step-by-step. 

They helped select their outfits for the first day of school.  The night before, we laid them out. 

On the first day of school we made a big deal out of how grown-up they were to be going to school.  We made a special breakfast, took pictures, and showed our excitement for them. 

You have to be careful as a parent.  Our children pick up on our emotions so easily.  If you show sadness (because you will be sad), if you show tension, if you show anxiety, if you show any negative feelings, then your child will pick up on that and share your same feelings.  Parents must keep it positive. 

If your child still cries after all of this, then give a quick kiss, say you love them, and you will be back at the time class gets out.  Don't linger.  Eventually, they learn that they won't get attention for crying.

It actually makes it more stressful for the teacher if the parent hangs around because the child won't calm down and get to the business at hand.

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Jocelyn | Expert

Jocelyn

Reassure your child that you will be back, get them playing with another child or a fun toy and then leave, even if they begin to cry.

When you come to pick your child up, tell them, "I told you I would be back, I will come back for you every single time."

I found with one of my children that did the trick after about a week's time. She just needed a little bit of extra reassurance.

If the crying were to last after more than a couple of weeks,  maybe something is going on at preschool that is scaring or bothering your child and that would need to be checked into. Otherwise, just keep with your routine and your child will adapt.

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