3 to 4 Years
Children are starting to feel more self-sufficient and in control of their surroundings at this stage. But heading off to preschool or daycare can be overwhelming for a child and make her pine for her parents even more. For some kids, this is their first experience with a prolonged separation, so don't panic if it takes months for them to feel comfortable.
What Your Child Is Thinking
"What if I don't like it here and I feel sad?" "What if no one comes to pick me up?"
Send your child to preschool or daycare with a photo key chain attached to her bag or another reminder of home. Jonah Zinner, from Bend, Oregon, feels better about going to school when his mom tucks a small stuffed animal in his backpack. "He has a fit when he forgets it, so he must feel less anxious knowing that it's with him," says his mom, Porte.
It's also crucial to follow through on your promises. Be on time to pick up your child, which comforts her because she trusts that you'll be there when you say you will. Try rehearsing goodbyes at home to prevent cries of "Don't go!" says Tamar Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety. "Have your child be the parent and let her pretend to leave and come back. Being in both roles helps kids see that goodbye isn't forever," she explains.