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Attacking Separation Anxiety in Young Children


My 4-year-old daughter doesn’t want to go to preschool. When I take her to preschool in the morning, she insists that I sit with her in class, which is impossible. I have tried leaving the classroom for 30 minutes at a time, but then she clings more. I don't know what to do.


Child Separation

Dealing with separation anxiety can be tough on both the parent and the child. We're happy to see that you are reaching out for support and guidance before deciding what to do. Unfortunately, ​there is no easy way to break your daughter’s habit but to do it cleanly and completely. The most important thing right now is consistency. Remind yourself that every time you give in, it takes 10 more times of being consistent for that behavior to change. If she pushes and you give in and stay, then she will push even further next time to get you to stay. 

At home, practice what she should do when it’s time for her to go to school. Pretend your living room is the school; tell her goodbye and then walk out of the room. Describe specifically what she should do (i.e., sit quietly, focus on the teacher, etc.) when she starts to feel sad. Ease her anxiety by giving her something small of yours to take with her. This gives her something to hold onto when she thinks of you and helps her feel like you are never far away. 

When she makes it through a day at school, praise her like crazy and give her lots of attention for it! The process will just take some time to become normal to her and for a routine to be established. Once this happens, she will begin to understand that you will be there at the end of the day.