How to Deal with Preschool Separation

by Barbara Purdum
Alta Head Start Mental Health Consultant

Our school year is well underway, but some children still have a hard time separating from their parents in the morning. Here are some tips to help ease the transition to school from home and from school back to home.

  • Let your child know you’re leaving. Leaving without saying goodbye can create insecurity in the child and break down trust, as well as creating more anxiety which may increase clinginess.
  • Say goodbye briefly and reassure your child in a positive way. Using a “key phrase” can be reassuring, letting children know that you’re getting ready to leave. Use the same key phrase every time you leave so that it becomes routine and will begin to prepare your children for your departure.
  • Let your child know when you’ll be seeing him/her again and who will be picking him/her up from school. You can use time markers, rather than actual time, such as, “I’ll be back to pick you up after snack.”
  • After saying goodbye, leave. Do not give in to your child’s protests and do not linger to see if your child will stop whining. If you make a big deal out of leaving, then your child will make a big deal out of it. Say your goodbye, let the child know when you will see her/him again, and then walk out.
  • You might want to give your child a memento to have in class with him/her. You can send a picture or something special that your child can look at while at school to remember you and help him/her to feel safe and comfortable.
  • When you see your child again, greet him/her with joy and let your child know you are happy to see him/her. Even if you have had a hard day and are exhausted, make the effort to show your child you’re happy to see him/her.

You can find more information about adjusting to Preschool at

In addition, you can check out some resources for children at your local library, such as the book “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn, or the book, “Llama Llama Misses Mama” by Anna Dewdney. Also, there’s an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood where Daniel goes to school (episode 103). It includes the song “Grown-Ups Come Back,” which may be useful to find and listen to.

If you have any questions about this topic, or any other involving your child’s behavior, development or well-being, please call me at 330-736-0071 or email me at [email protected]