How do I help my preschooler beat separation anxiety?

I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my 3 year old daughter Julia’s preschool class listening to her cry for her Mommy.

Julia at school classroom doorThe perfection of her first day was short-lived.

Day 2 brought a few tears. Day 3 was harder still. And Day 4 included a phone call home to request a rescue.

So now I sit outside the door on the cruelly cold and hard floor and overhear my daughter’s fears.

I know her pain intimately. As a child I suffered extreme separation anxiety for years and years. I can remember the feeling exactly. I sincerely felt like I could not survive my mother leaving and I could not understand why she would continually torture me.

I know Julia is not just being naughty and trying to demand her way. She is truly and profoundly anxious. But I also know that she needs to perservere through it. If I give in and take her out of school, it will teach her that she cannot survive and beat her fears.

I am devastated for her.

I know how difficult a life with anxiety and panic can be. I live it every day. My anxieties may have changed clothes through the years, but I still have this painful thorn digging into my ribs. Even with medication, my stomach is often sick and I am tortured with indescribable, irrational panic attacks.

I pray that Julia will grow out of this separation anxiety and that it will not continue to torture her.

It is so frustrating to watch twenty happy children learn and play, while my daughter clings to the teacher pleading for her Mommy. She will occasionally stop crying and join the class, but then remember her sadness and begin to cry again.

But wait… as I’m typing I realize that I haven’t heard her wails for a while. I stand up and peer through the window. My precious little Julia’s face is dry and she’s smiling as she sits next to her best friend Madison in circle time.

Thank you Lord.

Today it took 75 minutes of sadness and tears, maybe next week will be better.

But I wonder what I should do to help her. What should I say? I can’t even conquer my own fears.

What would you say? Has your child ever suffered severe separation anxiety? How long did it take for him/her to get through it?


  1. says

    You may not want to hear this…be forewarned. I found myself in a similar situation with my daughter, now 16. At 3, she just couldn’t do it. We finally, after she got so upset and vomited on the teacher removed her from school and waited a year. The next year? A completely different child. She did beautifully. She was confident. She was a star of the classroom. For her, waiting a year was the right and perfect solution. You might want to consider it. Some children at 3 are just not ready.

  2. says

    My son had a difficult time in preschool for about three months. By the end of the year he was fully adjusted. We just started kindergarten four weeks ago, and every morning he says, “I’m scared. I don’t want to go to school.” I keep saying it’s okay to feel scared, and that I know school is fun and he is learning a lot too. I pray it will get better sooner rather than later. I hope the same for you too.

    • Fahad Najam says

      My daughter is having the same issue. She is 3 years old and did well for the first 3 months, however, now she throws up all the time before going to school and in the class. Her teacher removed her and suggested see a doctor. I know she is fine and doesn’t have any issue at home (throwing up). I like your suggestion of waiting as it seems the best option. However, I’m just afraid that after 1 year the same thing may happen.

      1. Did you son socialized (family gathering etc.) a lot before he was a different person in school?
      2. Did he go through any therapy?

  3. says

    Oh, I am so sorry…I know how hard this must be. When we brought our daughter home at 13 months I stayed home with her for 4 months then had to go back to work. It was HORRIBLE. I swear I think she thought we were leaving her everyday and the teachers said she just sat in a rocking chair crying most of the day (this lasted for 3 wks) She now is the life of the party at school and LOVES it!!

    We still read “The Kissing Hand” and do that each morning so she can have a kiss from me (and me from her) anytime we need it : )

    I hope it all settles down for you!

  4. says

    OH…my heart just aches for sweet little Julia! That is so very sad. My little guy is only 1 1/2 but I’m already imagining this happening for him. I can’t imagine how that must rip your heart out. My childhood years were also very traumatic at school. I had to stay in a recess because the other girls were so mean to me. I would sit outside in a corner and bawl, until my wonderful teacher saved me and let me help out with bulletin boards and such during recess. I hope things continue to impprove for the little sweetie.

  5. says

    My son had such a hard time with this last year at 3. The first 4 weeks, 2 days a week, I dragged him crying into school. He’d cry for me as he went in. I was always assured (by watching & the teachers) that he was fine after a bit. I’ve been the teacher on the other side. I knew the best thing to do was let him go but oh how it hurt my momma heart. Each day was a little better. I finally remembered the book “The Kissing Hand.” Oh my! Did he love it! I don’t know if it really helped, but it sure seemed to ease his anxiety a bit. To this day he still gets kisses on his hands to save for later. If your daughter calms down after a bit, then things are looking up. Good luck!

  6. says

    My son is on his 3rd week of school and this is the hardest for us so far. The first week he was excited and was completely fine. He didn’t even care when I left, made me a little sad but I was happy. The second week the assistant was gone and it through his world out of wack, he cried at lunch and at nap time. This week I have tried bribes that aren’t working. I don’t know the deal because on the days he doesn’t go to school he wants to be there and he never cries when I leave him it is only at lunch and nap time. He only goes 3 days a week. It is just so weird, I guess I’m really no help.

    • Chantel says

      So what happened, did your kiddo just adjust. I am having this exact same problem. It’s gradually gotten worse, and it’s only lifetime and lunchtime.

  7. says

    Wow that is so me! I suffered seperation anxiety as a child and it was so bad. I never wanted to go to school and some days my mom even had to come in to eat lunch with me because I couldn’t eat in from of the other kids. I stayed away from groups. People made me very nervous. My mom tried and tried though she put me in dance, soccer and swimming. Still to this day unfortunately I still kinda feel the same . I am a lot stronger but sometimes stupid things will trigger anxiety and I will have a panic attack. I knows its hard but keep pushing her little by little. You have to take steps in doing it. Maybe ask the teacher if you can stay for an hour one day then keep leaving a little earlier each day. Let her see you interact with the other children and it may make her feel more at peace. Let me know how it goes!

  8. says

    Oh we went through the same thing last year when my guy was 3. For the first 2 months of preschool I sat on the couch in the hall the 2 days a week he went to school. Some days were better than others. Some days I’d hear him cry a bit and others he’d cry a lot and they’d bring him too me a few times so he could see that I was still there. Then I’d sit for an hour and tell him I was leaving but would be back to get him at the end of the school day (another hour and a half). After that went OK, I’d sit less and less until I didn’t have to sit on the couch at all (I was ecstatic to be done with the couch). This year he told me he was scared, but so far he’s been OK. It will take time, but she’ll be OK. But it’s heart breaking to see them cry so hard and miss us so much. I just wanted to scoop him up and run home with him. But I’m glad we stuck it out. But I wasn’t going to let it go past 2 months. At that point we would have stopped school and tried again after winter break or waited until he was 4 years old. He made the cut off by 2 days :)

  9. says

    It’s SO hard. I’ve never had a child quite THAT anxious, but my middle child always has trouble leaving me. I’ve found that rewarding her for going to class without crying helps a lot. But she is 5 now. Julia may be too young for that? ((HUG)) As a former teacher, I can say that she WILL get over it. But it takes longer for some than for others.

  10. says

    I too, remember terrible separation anxiety as a child.

    What about a picture time-line, to help her know what to expect? Maybe you could take pictures of her doing things – eating breakfast, getting dressed, hugging you goodbye at school, playing in her classroom, hugging you hello when you pick her up, and then other things you do after school.

    You could use it to prepare her in the morning. “We’ll do this and this and then this, and then I’ll pick you up.”

  11. says

    Oh no, poor Julia… I’ve had to leave my babies and kids at daycare from a very early age, but with only a few exceptions they always did very well. Those exceptions though, just about broke my heart every single time.

    I hope that things continue to get better and that she’s running off to preschool with not a care in the world very soon.

  12. says

    My son is 2.5 years old an started preschool last month and we had some problems with separation. Mainly I think because I am a stay at home mom and he has never been to day care or even a babysitter( besides grandma. My is the night before he goes I talk it over with him, remind him what we are doing the next day, then on the way to preschool I talk about how great it is going to be for him, fun, friends, reading,etc. Once we get there I help him put up his stuff and lead him to the gym(the first thing they do for the day) and we get a ball(his favorite toy) and he plays. I tell him I will be back after clean up time, kiss, hug him and say good bye and walk out. I go to my car and call his teacher on her cell phone to make sure he is okay. She reassures me and saids if she needs me she will call. Now after 4 weeks we have made it through one week so far of no crying and he actually tells me bye and see you later. Hope it gets better.

  13. says

    Poor baby. Is preschool really necessary for some reason? We waited until kindergarten for our kids…we worked with them so they’d know all the same things going in to school. And another mom and I traded watching each others’ kids so they would have some time away from mom to practice during the year before kindergarten. I’ve talked to many kindergarten teachers when working in the schools and most of them say even all day kindergarten is too much for most of the kindergarteners. But it’s a big trend here.

  14. says

    Ladies, thank you all soooooo much for your words of encouragement and your stories. It really helps to know that others have gone through the same situation.


  15. says

    Susan, my son – four years old – is going through serious separation anxiety. We are considering what to do – he just started preschool – and he’s fine if “I” don’t take him. If our nanny takes him, if Daddy takes him, if our neighbor takes him – NO problem. If I take him, he screams. The teacher said he does great but constantly asks if his mom is going to pick him up and has told her that his mom goes away sometimes (I travel for one night every other week for work—-otherwise I work from home.)

    I recently looked up some suggestions. They seem to be helping. First – ALWAYS be on time and come back when you say you are. Second – we got a book called the Kissing Hand (Audrey Penn, I think is the author.) It’s a great book and it’s about a racoon going to school and away from his mommy. It’s now my son’s favorite book and he has me and our nanny read it several times a day. When his teacher read it in class last week, he was so excited. I’d say constantly reassuring her you’re always going to be back is key and live up to that. Short trips away (to the store, whatever) and returning when you say (30 minutes, etc.) builds the faith that they’ll see their mommy when mommy says – which is the biggest fear – that you’re not coming back…or so that’s what I’ve learned. It’s working for us, I just keep reassuring my son – all the time – even asking him out of the blue – what happens when mommy leaves? He says “she always comes back.” It seems to be helping us. Just some thoughts, but check out that book ….

  16. says

    I am a little mystified why there is this huge push to send our kids to school so early. My son is three, and still has two years until kindergarten. We did consider sending him this year, but he really doesn’t seem ready. And I’m not talking academically – he already recognizes his colors, shapes, letters, and numbers, and is starting to read. We’ve been teaching him those things. He’s also in soccer, which gives him a little time away from us to start making the transition to school. I know if I took him to preschool now, he’d be struggling like this. I’d rather wait until I feel he’s ready.

    A year makes a huge difference; if she’s really struggling weeks from now, I hope you’ll reconsider taking her out for awhile. I don’t think it will send her the message that she can quit what’s hard unless that’s the way you present it. I guess the main question I had after reading all these comments is, if it isn’t totally necessary (ie, you work), why put them through it so early if they aren’t enjoying it?

  17. says

    Maybe you could get her something of your for her to hold, some type of jewelery, watch or something that she could keep in her pocket. So she could touch it when she gets upset or misses you.

  18. says

    Wow, these are some great ideas. I’m so sorry to hear about poor Julia. Audrey started 3 weeks ago and she too is having some problems. She cries every day when I drop her off but it only lasts about a minute and the she seems to be fine, but she’s also exhibiting some behavioral problems because of her anxiety. I’m hoping I can find this book over here that y’all are talking about, it sounds like a great tool, and noreen’s idea sounds like something I could try too. I hope it gets better for you soon.

  19. says

    I hate being separated from Kaelin…but she seems to do OK…I’m sure she’ll have times when she’ll only want mama, though…good for your for making it through the tears!

  20. LisaC says

    I completely understand what you are going through right now. My daughter had the same reaction only she was younger. She did pretty well at the first daycare (she was only 9 months) but when we switched her to her new daycare she was around 15 months and very aware of her surroundings. She would cry to the point of being bright red and not being able to catch her breath and we were only driving in the car to the daycare. It took her over a month to finally understand that this was her new routine and that we will always come back to pick her up. I knew she was safe and the daycare had wonderful teachers, but I also felt this tremendous guilt about going to work knowing that Maddie was so upset. I often left crying many days, just praying for her to get through it and she did. I even thought about quitting work and just staying home with her, but I realized that even if I delayed sending her to daycare, there would be a point in time that we would have to take that step. Be strong and you will both get through this difficult time.

  21. says

    I’m so sorry, Susan. I have never had to deal with this with my kids, so I’m not sure what to tell you. I know it’s a difficult situation.

    I think that you hit on the solution in your closing — prayer. Prayer will help calm you when there’s nothing you can do for her. Intercessory prayer might help calm her. Prayer will give you wisdom about what you should do — persevere with her, or wait another year.

  22. says

    I am so sad to read this. I am a fairly new reader to this blog but remember reading the day 1 post. I have no answers for you – I have 3 kids and we’re dealing with separation anxieties with our 3 year old although there is hope b/c our 4 yr old who is in Kindergarten used to have issues and begs us to let her walk from the minivan to her classroom without mom or dad accompanying her (go figure). Anyway just wanted to let you know I’ve committed to pray for you and your daughter. Gosh sometimes it’s just as hard if not harder for our moms to endure the pain our kids are experiencing. Sinecerely, A fellow sister in Christ.

  23. says

    I have two in pre-school, one of which is having separation problems as well. She’s getting better each week but it still takes a while before she allows me to leave the room.

    I made a little book for my daughter to help her with the adjustment. I put some pictures of her in there, as well as some pictures of the family, and listed all the things I loved about her. That has been working wonders for us.

  24. says

    Hello Susan it’s Cascia from Healthy Moms. I understand what you are going through. Separation Anxiety can be tough. The best thing you can do for your child is to give her a hug and kiss right before you leave and tell her that you will return and Mommy will not be gone for very long. If you do this on a regular basis eventually she will overcome this fear. Take a deep breath, relax and before too long this will all pass. Good Luck! And God Bless!

    Remember to visit Healthy Moms for information on parenting, pregnancy, health and women’s issues. Healthy Moms wants to promote your blog! Visit us for more information.

    Cascia Talbert
    Healthy Moms- Parenting, Pregnancy, Health and Women’s Issues

  25. says

    My almost four year old is the exact same way. She will not go into Sunday School ever even with her big sis by her side.

    I know I should do preschool to help her, but I’m going to wait it out one more year and see if we can work on it some more. I know for me its more my fault as well, as she is my last baby and I just don’t want her to fully grow up.

    Big (((HUGS))) to you mama and Julia. I’m sure with time she will adjust more and more.

  26. says

    I was a preschool teacher before being a SAHM. Many kids go through this to some extent and then there are a few who seem to have more anxiety than the others- like Julia.

    As a teacher- I would not have called you to come get Julia… that really only makes it worse, in my opinion. She may not be doing it to get her way- but she has learned that if she cries long enough the teacher will call you to come get her.

    On the other hand- she may just not be ready for preschool yet. Some kids are just not ready at 3. If it is really terrible for her, why not wait a year and let her go to preschool at 4. If her teacher thinks she is far worse than other cases it might be worth talking to Julia’s pediatrician about it too.

    Praying for you!

  27. says

    As many others have shared, I understand how difficult separation anxiety can be. I’ve gone through several rounds of it with my daughter as well. She also began preschool this year, and for the most part has done well.

    A friend of mine also read The Kissing Hand with her son, and adopted a little practice of her own. You can see from a post a couple days later that it went well and seemed to help.

    I echo Jennifer’s comment about prayer. Also, I found with my daughter that consistency was helpful. Each time she cried for a few minutes less, until finally she hardly cried at all. We just had to keep persevering and talking through it.

    Hope it gets better and that you are able to figure out what works best for you and Julia.

  28. Kim says

    Hi, I can understand all the pain an frustration that goes along with children struggling with separation anxiety. My son started pre-school when he was 3 1/2 and cried almost every day for the first two weeks but only for about 5 minutes or less. He recently started school again, two days a week, and started out just fine, adjusting well, but has started a delayed separation anxiety this past week. He cried on and off all day last week and this week. I know he was sick the previous week and that may have contributed to this but I think with reassurance and lots of patience this will pass. I will get the book many of you have spoke of, since he loves to read! Good luck to everyone, oh and I do agree, some children are just not ready for a semi-structured regimen of school. My son did just great at his nanny’s! Much love!

  29. mom2spiritedboy says

    I can make your situation look like a walk in the park! My 3+ year old cries the ENTIRE time he is left at preschool-2 days/week for 3hours. Everybody says it will get better, but after 8 weeks it is not easing. He is now having issues staying with his dad and has diarrhea- due to nerves, etc. We were almost booted from preschool, but they thought it would be good to have me come and “work” in his classroom. I started yesterday and it went well, but I am terrified that we have just validated his fear of being without me. Good luck to you and I wish you a happy preschooler

    • jennifer says

      Hi @mom2spiritedboy. I know this is YEARS later so pretty sure you will not see this, but I am going through this now and my sons preschool also suggested staying in class with my son. My fear is that he thinks mommy goes to school with him now. Just curious how this turned out for you & your son? TIA!

      • jenn says

        hi! it IS years later, but I can understand your frustration and feel your pain :( so hard to see a child suffer from this. it is totally heart wrenching! sorry you are going through this. I can understand- we have traveled this road for years……

        after that experience and months of trying- we ended up removing him from that preschool. my presence there did not help and we decided that he was just “not ready”… that said, we opted for a co-op preschool the following year, where i could stay and it wasn’t out of the norm to have mom’s there in the class. the goal was for him to have a positive school experience and we THOUGHT this would help. it still took time for me to transition out and it was not without lots of tears and drama. I think that some kids are just prone to this and we, as moms have the hardest time with it :(

        our case is a little more intense than most, so I am not sure what advice will be useful for you. he still suffers from anxiety, but it is manageable now and we have gone to therapy and got professional advise as to how to deal with it. it is was really hard on our family and we wondered if there was something “wrong” with him or if we were doing something wrong. we learned that the key is to believe that your child CAN DO IT and there is nothing “wrong” with him/her, but that they just need reminding ALL the time that they are capable, etc.

        some 3 year olds are just truly NOT ready…and that is OK! (even though I completely get that YOU probably need a break…I felt the same way!) I also think that some kids need a softer transition to separating than others and that doing it in small increments will help them to get used to it?? “mom is going to the car for to make a call” then come back in 10 min…then increase, etc. that might help? that is how we did it at the co-op… (on the 2nd try for pre-school)

        I wish you the best of luck and please know that you are NOT alone and that someday these traits will serve your child out in the world :)

  30. Salma says

    My son has been crying n complaining about a bully in class. He even had nightmares about him. I tried sorting this out with the teacher. He fell sick with Urticaria and couldnt go to school for a week. He is still taking anti-allergiesand therefore goes late to school. He started crying alot lately. The thought of leaving for school and leaving me makes him cry. He would cry every night before sleeping, cry from the moment he wakes up and comes back home. What should i do about it? Thank you for listening.

  31. C.S. says

    My daughter is very anxious and nervous. She would tell me not to leave her. So we made a school bracelet – a bead bracelet where she picked beads for each person she misses, then she wears it to school so when she misses someone or something, she can touch her bracelet. When I take her to school, we give a lot of hugs and kisses and I also kiss her bracelet. It has helped her get through the day although she still remains anxious and nervous every morning. Baby steps!

  32. Andrea says

    My daughter will be 4 next month and we are dealing with separation anxiety both at school and even when we are leave a room in our home to go to a different room she becomes anxious asking us where we are going and ends up following us around the house. She also seems anxious around other children, her body becomes very tense. I am not sure what to do at this point but talk to her pediatrician about it and hope she will have some answers. It is hard as parent to see other children feel so comfortable around other children and be more independent. I guess I kept thinking it is just a phase but now I am not sure anymore and wonder if it is something more. Anyone out there with similar experiences?

  33. misty says

    It has been 4 months now, and my 4 year old daughter is still having serious issues with pre-school 2 days a week for 5 hours. I have been wanting to take her out because it hurts to see her puke and hyperventilate before, and during pre-school days. But everyone tells me that would be a big mistake, since kindergarten will start next year if she is ready. I have taken her to the pediatrician and it is even more scary now. They want to get her evaluated for asbergers syndrome, because of similar symptoms you all have expressed in your comments! It bothers me because she is my kid and all of these things didn’t come up until she started pre-school and now the teachers, doctors, family are all telling me well yes maybe she does have it. So now I have to worry about all of that as well as pre-school issues. It is real hard not knowing what is best for your child when experts are telling you what should be done. So right now I just feel alone, and very sad. Just thought I would share! And I have tried many of your suggestions through out this blog with out any change in her day. So good luck to all of you mothers, because it is very hard to go through.

  34. sad mom says

    i have a 2 1/2 year old who also has severe seperation anxiety. he is not in school yet but does go to day care or use to. he cried every day morning till night. he would cry on his way there. then all seemed ok after about 3 weeks. then it would just be after the weekend he would cry for 2 days then be ok til monday again, then he started acting out in daycare thinking i would come get him which i didnt untill he seriously tried to hurt another small child. now he has been kicked out of day care and i dont know what to do!! i have to work but i dont want to hurt my child by continuing to torture him. i also have anxiety so i understand but also understand this is part of being a kid. does anyone have any suggestions i am terrified to send him to another daycare!!!

  35. says

    I’m a preschool teacher and know this can be hard. Sometimes harder on the parents than the kids! (I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, so I know how the kids feel too.) In general, we like for the parents not to give in to the child’s tears. In most cases, the child does settle down (and yes, it may take a few weeks).

    Each of our classes always has 2 teachers in the classroom. During the first week or two of school, we call in our subs so that each room has an extra pair of hands to help with crying children. I know one of our teachers always reads The Kissing Hand on the first day of school.

    As a parent, you can put a family picture in your child’s backpack so that if he/she is feeling sad, they can go look at it. I’ve had one little boy bring in a special hanky from his dad that he’ll get out to wipe his tears. If you stay at the school, please don’t look in the window of your child’s classroom. If they see you, it only makes it worse. We let parents hang out upstairs and our secretary will go check on their child periodically and give updates. Or the parent can leave and just call in to check on their child. Please don’t feel you need to pull your child out so that the teacher doesn’t have to deal with him/her. We’re there to help your child learn to socialize and become a little more independent!

    Once in a while, a child just isn’t ready to start school. Especially if they’re younger than 3. But we like to give it our best shot before suggesting the child wait a little longer before starting school. I hope this helps!

  36. Meagan says

    I am staring to deal with a LOT of anxiety in my 3 year old daughter. I had a cousin pass away this past January. She was the mother to a child the same age as my daughter Jenna. At the funeral I allowed my daughter to come up with me to the casket. I explained everything to her and she seemed fine. Recently, within the past few weeks, she gets very anxious when I go ANYWHERE! I can’t even go upstairs witout her getting upset. I come home every day to have lunch and spend a hour with my daughter. She loves it but, when I go to leave, she crys. Even if my husband, son, or my mother are there, she says “I don’t want you to leave”. Some of the days she is fine and sometimes I Just have to leave. I have thought about not coming home for lunch but, I think if I continue to do so, it will teach her that I will return. I finally sat down with her last night and had a heart to heart. She told me that she doesn’t want me to leave and not come back like Kyle’s mommy. Now, I am at a loss, any words of advice?

  37. says

    My heart squeezes while reading this post! It brings back so many memories of my kids going through the same thing, at preschool as well as elementary school. My oldest daughter sat inside her preschool and chanted, ‘mama, mama, mama’ for 20 minutes, then switched to ‘dada,dada..’ then went on the nana. in two weeks she was over it, but i never will be!
    This year I had to drag my 6 year old out the front door by his feet, after coercing him out of the bathroom where he had locked himself in on his first day of grade one. he cried every day for two months before he felt good about going. it was just as hard on me!!why can’t we just keep them home with us forever?????

  38. Trish says

    Good Afternoon Iam a mother of two and my daughter just started to PreK she will be 4 in four weeks. The first day I took her I wa there all day long, she was ok, the second day I took her I had to go to other teachers classroom because I am a teacher. She kept screaming and crying and they school personnel brought her to me 4 times. Today I tood her mommy is not going to be at the school anymore, but I will be back to pick you up. I left some pictures, but the school called me and told me she was screaming and crying. I just started this new teaching job and I don’t know what else to do. Please help

  39. says

    I dread this so bad!! My 15 month old son already has a difficult time leaving me to go to the church nursery..and I think it is even harder on me than it is on him! :(
    I know it is better to let him get through it..but I hate making him so upset! It is a constant battle that so many parents struggle with!

  40. jenny vallentine says

    …my heart goes out ot you! as a mother of a two year old just entering preschool, i am going through the same letting go process. for me, it’s important to acknowledge, then remember to say “whatever” to your feelings, and let them ebb and flow like the tide. congrats on being aware, because that is a first step on a long journey.
    best of luck on this and other many new adventures

  41. Faith says

    I am currently dealing with my daughter’s seperation anxiety. She sounds exactly like your child. I get a phone call everyday from her teacher to let me know how long she has been crying (not sure if that is good or bad).
    This morning she screamed and cried and refused to get on the bus. The bus driver and aide reassured me that it was only temporary but, I don’t know how long I can watch my sweet baby in sooo much pain. She just seems like a different child since she started Pre-K two weeks ago. Hope all is well with your little one now :)

  42. Prakash Ramsingh says

    My child started pre schoo 3 weeks ago the first 2 weeks was fine. The 3rd week she started to miss us. Now she has a deep heavy breathing all the time and that is to include home.Has any have that with their preschooler and how have they help their child to over come that heavy breathing.I am very concern for my child. Thank you

  43. Dana says

    I just removed my daughter from preschool (or rather, the preschool strongly suggested I remove her) for the exact same problem. She loved to go for the first two weeks, and I thought I was finally going to get that tiny little break I’ve been dying for. Preschool seemed like a godsend. Then for no apparent reason, she started having anxiety when I left. It escalated to the point that she threw up and stood by the door retching until I came back to get her. I tried going for a week with her and staying the whole time, and she was just fine – engaged with the kids, participated in the activities. But when I tried to leave her again, same thing with the throwing up and screaming, only worse. I tried leaving for just a minute at a time to work up to being gone longer, but she immediately freaked out when I even stood up to go so we couldn’t ever get to that point. I finally had to pull her out.

    She has been going to a nanny one day a week so I can work, and now she’s having that same reaction when I drop her off at the nanny’s. This is a person she’s known all her life and someone she absolutely adores. A couple of weeks ago when she went to bed, she asked for the nanny! But now all of a sudden, she’s freaking out when I leave her there too.

    I don’t mean to sound like a bad mother, but I desperately NEEEEED a minute to myself so I can get things done. She has been such a needy child all her life that I literally have a hard time even getting housework done. I manage my husband’s dental office (from home, which isn’t an easy task) AND I run my own business from home as well. I’d love to say that it’s an option to just hire other people to do that stuff, but it’s not. I’m doing them out of sheer necessity and without it, we can’t survive financially. My parents keep insisting I find a daycare, but how would a daycare be any different from preschool or any better than one-on-one with a nanny?

    So, so frustrated – sitting here in tears after just dropping Ella off at the nanny’s and listening to her scream for me as I left.

  44. Carmen says

    I’m going through the same thing. My daughter threw up today. She has been with my mother all day long since she was born. Her anxiaty started about 4 weeks ago on night I went out with her father. All the sudden she does not want to stay with her sis who she adores and now she cryes for me even with my mother. i’m desperate, It hurts to see my child going thru this emotions…she is fine when i’m around. What is going on???

  45. says

    What I want to know is what the proffesionals say we as parents should do to deal with our children’s severe separation anxiety. I’m a single father and my daughter is 2 years old, will be turning 3 in April and I have the same fear of “torturing” her when she enters kindergarten. her separation anxiety is so extreme that at church she will not go to the kids’ playroom unless I go with her and sit there all day long. I have tried leaving the room and she starts crying uncontrolably and no one is able to calm her down until I walk in the room again.

  46. Mely says

    It breaks my heart to hear about Julia’s anxiety. Some things to try are giving her a picture of yourself so that she can look at it when she misses you. Reading “The Kissing Hand” will also help her anxiety. Another thing to try is not allow her to see you sad when you leave her in school. The last sentence is the most difficult one to do, but if all fails, then keep her from school for another year. It’s true that sometimes children are just not developmentally ready for school. But it seems like Julia is beginning to overcome that obstacle. Congratulations Julia!

  47. leigh says

    Iam having a serious problem letting go of my 31/2 year old girl. we are in the process of moving and she will be starting junior kindergarden Sept 2010, She has always been with me or the father and grandparents, i have never needed to enrol her in daycare! I have been trying to talk about school with her, about all the fun stuff she be doing and she’s fine with it once iam there. when i tell her school is for kids and mommy is too big, but i’ll be there to pick you up in a little while she starts to cry and say she doesnt want to go to school. She is so bright, she knows all the colours you can think of, shapes counts and know the alphabet . i even do adding and subtracting with her at home, but the thought of school and me leaving her causes so much crying that it gives me anxiety?? pls help

    • april says

      I need help! I do not know what to do. We have a 27 mos old daughter who has never been without me or her father since she was born, besides my mother and my in-laws. We tried to put our daughter into a pre-school type setting in november at 24 mos, so that she could socilize with children her age and learn to be without me. We started out 2 days a week for 2 hours. The first week was a disaster. She screamed the entire time and wanted to be held by the teacher. The teachers assured me this was normal for a child who has never been without his or her parents. Okay the second week..Worse! and so on. It did not get better. Her entire personality changed. She started crying every second I would leave the room and would not go to anyone! My husband insisted she not go back and of course I agreed. We recently have hired a Nanny agency and finally after several interview and try-outs found someone who we trust and feel that is a great fit for our daughter. I had her come to our home and meet our daughter and play with her when I was in the home. My daughter would not go for that. The Nanny came back the next day and she thought it was a good idea if my husband and I left the home for a few hours to see how she would do. She cried herself to sleep, and when we returned to started crying. We have to make a decision on whether to hire this nanny while I work fo my husband 25 hours a week. I do not know what to do!!! Am I making a mistake by not letting her get used to someone else??? Can anyone relate??

  48. says

    my child had too seperation isuues growing up but the teacher reassured me after i left she was fine……now she is 11 years old. she still gets very tense somtimes but it is about different things….homework,tests,grades..i try to telll her thet it is important to be sereouse about those kinds of things but not to get too worked up….what can i do to help her?

  49. says

    I agree with the first commenter that not all 3-yr-old’s are ready for preschool. I have twin boys, and one of them started his separation anxiety at 10 mos old and it didn’t let up until he was 4 years old. I couldn’t even leave him at Sunday School. It started out as crying attacks when he was younger, then just extreme anxiety when he got a little older. After he turned 4 it was like he flipped a switch and now he is fine. I have been taking them to Sunday School and classes at our children’s museum and he is doing absolutely great. I know he is now ready for kindergarten in the fall. The main thing is that I don’t think I did anything to help him get over it. Making him go definitely did not help him get over it…he went when he was ready.

  50. Mary says

    My 2.5 year old girl has changed for the worse since i put her into pre-school 1 month ago. She used to be so sociable and confident but since pre-school she has become extra clingy and very emotional. She won’t let me leave her sight and cries if i leave to go to the bathroom. She has grown attached to one of the teachers and just follows her around all day instead of playing with the other kids. I really hope she starts enjoying school soon because it breaks my heart to see her so upset. She only goes 1 day per week. How long does it usually take for kids to start enjoying pre-school.

  51. Melanie says

    I am facing the exact issues as you Susan. But I can’t remember if I had the same seperation anxiety as a child. My daughter is 4 years and 4 months old. We have never been seperated since birth. She is not only afraid to be by herself in school but she is afraid of all people in general especially younger children. No one can talk or approach her including her grandparents and relatives. I am sitting down here now writing while she is screaming and wailing in the classroom. It hurts so bad. I pray that she can one day overcome her fear once and for all. She will be going to kindergarten in September and it scares me.

    • Simone says

      As a teacher of Pre-Kindergarten, I can only assure all of you that this does pass. The best thing you can do is be upbeat, hug your child, give them a kiss, smiling and reassuring them that you love them and they are safe, and that you will be back, and turn and go.
      Teachers should not be calling you to pick them up, this only makes it worse for you and your child. They also should not be updating you on how long your child cried, but how long they did not! And how much they enjoyed the time playing, working, and having fun with thier new friends. Teachers should be sending home information about friends so you have a lead in to talk to your child about so they know and can share their new world with you.

      The kissing hand is great for the first day of school, but i suggest Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes. It is about a little girl who worried about everything!!!! It has humor and it really worked with two of my children this year, I let them borrow it and read it with their parents, they may follow me or my assistant around, but not all the time and that is ok with us, this won’t last long either, and they love the work and centers! So they will soon be off on their own.

      Trust me, I know what it is like from both sides of the classroom door.!

      Give them roots and wings. They need to know you are excited and trust they will be ok!
      Prayers to all of you!

  52. Lily says

    Oh boy all the stories sound like me and my daughter. It’s her 5th week at daycare and she still cries. 2nd week was best, she walked in and said bye and didn’t cry a bit. 3rd week on she kept on saying she doesn’t want to go to school, asked me if school was closed, asked me if I can stay with her. Boy oh boy. This whole week she’s been crying and screaming as ssoon as she wakes up. Doesn’t want to get change or do anything. I tried telling her that we will go to the park and make smiley face pizza and different things, she said
    “I don’t want anything. I don’t want to go to school. I want my mommy and daddy”

    This morning she said “Please don’t say bye, don’t say bye, don’t say bye” when I dropped her off. She clinged to my neck and wouldn’t leave me. Am I a bad mother ? I walked out the door as she screamed for me. I hope it gets better soon.

  53. aparna says

    oh my !! this was my 3 yr old’s 3rd day in school. he threw severe fits and now he’s at home and doesnt want daddy…. he doesnt allow me to cook,use the washroom… NOTHING !!! I am just hoping he gets better…. have put him in 2 days weekly, 4 hrs each day. All the teachers say he’s doing good, but I really don’t know how he is managing !!!

  54. elie says

    My son is 4 his first week he was fine even disregarded 3 bullies one shoved him of the slide another thru sand in his face the last one poured her milk in his lunch tray the second week he got ill 4days iwas instructed by his dr to keep him at home 3rd week he is screaming and clutching at me dont leave the teacher does not like me. My boy has only been in school 11days total the teacher? Director words to me made me feel she has no idea how to work with my son “this is not normal i don’t know what else to do” imagen a supposedly 15yr exp “professional” not to mention so many other things she has said like he didnt do his work yèt having to admit oh he actually did do his work. This reveals to me she has no idea what she is talking about. Iam finding my son another pre k in hopes that my son can get over whatever caused this and he can again enjoy going to school. All advice welcomed God will continue to protect our children from harm.

  55. christy says

    Sometimes it helps if you let your child bring a picture of the two of you together or the whole family if their are other siblings.

  56. Robin says

    My child is the exact same way. I was hoping for an update on how things went, what decisions you made or how she got through. My little one will be 4 and I’m not sure how we will ever do school.

  57. tany says

    Dear Lord… when I was little I never suffered separation anxiety.. i don’t know how does that feel.. all I know is that my 31 months old at the preeschools cries when i take her every morning… she distracted with some activity and then starts again with her little face all sad… I though i was going to stop, but it seems that its getting worse. Now she says from the day before “i dont want to go to school”. It truly break my heart!

  58. Denise says

    My son is 3 and will be going to preschool 1 day for 2 hours to start. He was a preemie and not sure if that is even an excuse but we have a bond and have hardly ever been separated… I do everything from wake up to put to bed due to dad working alit. He loves his daddy and grandmom alit and will stay with them but I am seeing alit if anxiety just from his gym playgroup where he is supposed to be in the room by himself.. I have to stay in the room with the class but I always make him stay w the group. Now with school starting, I’m hoping that he will gain some more independence and be able to spread his wings and not want me by his side all the time… This actually keeps me up at nights thinking if how to make him more independent.

  59. Sarah says

    I’m so happy I found this thread. I have been so unbelievably stressed out over this preschool thing. My daughter is 2 and started school 2 months ago. She only goes one day a week. The first few weeks were terrific. She did very well saying goodbye and had tons of fun. When I would pick her up she would be so happy playing with her friends and she didn’t want to leave! I felt great, comfortable an confident. Several weeks ago all of a sudden, she started having terrible crying fits when I dropped her off and her teachers said she is hanging back, not really playing anymore. I am seriously sick with the stress of this. I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m nervous something happened or something. Maybe she isn’t ready. But why was she enjoying herself so much at first?? Uhh. I don’t know what to do .

  60. says

    At 3 months old my daughter was put into daycare not by choice but due to my finances I was unable to stay at home with her. I believe that being with other kids is real important in their child development. After delivering my second daughter she did not want to go to daycare at all since her baby sister got to stay home with mom she began to have fits everyday when I dropped her off. I held my ground dropping her off for daycare just like I had did for the last two years. Having a premature baby at home kept me busy and having her in daycare gave me a little “mommy” time. To my amazement the daycare began calling me asking for me to come back and get my daughter. The hardest thing I thought was dropping her off but what became even harder was picking her up seeing her get in the car and feeling like she had “WON.” I am not trying to make it sound like a game but I myself had figured it out, to her it was a game and yes she had “WON.”

  61. Daniel Frank says

    From my experience a lot of this behavior falls back on the parent. I’m not accusing as you only specified the problem and not what happens at home on a regular basis. A lot of parents need comfort and their emotions met so they develop too much of a bond with their child and it snowballs from there.You have to bond with your children but teacg them to be independent and also to develop relationships with other people. It’s also particularly difficult if you have kept them in isolation their whole they only know mom or mom and dad or mom and grandma or some small combination. Then when school becomes required you bring them in from your small inner circle and throw them into a room with strangers is a dangerous idea. So love them and bond while keeping a safe distance for instances like these, teach them about coping, being independent, and adaptations , and get them involved have them meet extended family, your friends with children, school or pre school activities, etc. They won’t be nearly as shocked. And talk about it ib advance! Don’t wake up rush them to get ready drop them off and be stressed and rush it beause you’re late for work. plan that first week well in advance.

  62. lenah says

    I started my son at preschool on Tuesday he had Wednesday off and back to school today(Thursday) he goes to a school with a preschool in it, but it is 4 days a week from 8:10-2:30, and he has about an hour bus ride to and from school, so a total of 9.5 hours. He will be 4 at the end of August. I am a SAHM and was looking forward to homeschooling him, but he wantrd to ride the bis and my family was pressuring me to send him to prek….so we are giving it. Try, because he was ezcites about it. Mainly because the bus, and all his cousins and playmate go yo school. The 1st day he was so excited to ride the bus with 5 year old kindergarten playmate. Once he got to school gw cried under 5 minutes, BC he missed me, was in a new environment with people he did not know besides his teach hemet a couple times.then he was happy all day till nap time then he cried under 5 minutes and the teacher got a stuffed animal for him and rubbed his back and he went to al3p. (He was tired, didn’t sleep well BC worried about school tomorrow) had a great time the rest of the day except once he fell on a truck and slipped and bonked Hus head. Anyone will cry with that. 5minutes ice pack and he was good! I came to pick him up and he was so excited and yelled mommy! Then i asked if his playmate wanted to ride the bus gome or ride with us BC his mom asked me to ask and he said ride with us and my son wanted to ride the bus BC he never rode it home b4 an is amazed by big buses and the like. But we had appt so we went home together anyways. Me on the other hand was sick as a dog and pissed at family for pressuring me to send him. He told me he missed me a lot and I told h I missed you too lots and was happy to be with you. Today he was happy to get on the bus and go to schoolluand will see how it goes! We also read the kissing hand the night before and. It was a really good book, but for my son I wonder if it worried him about preschool BC the raycoon was worried about school. So from now on we skip that part and focus on everything else. And I like the idea to draw a heart in there palm or lips for a kiss. He didn’t. Really like me kissing his hand but he wanted to kiss mine. Were trying.g to make it a routine.he has an option to go home after lunch, a coiplehrs early and I pick him up but gas is expensive and as long as he likes it I’m on with it and I also we the benefit of staying alldaybc the meaty education part of the day is early and after lunch is nap and more focused on free play an socializing even though they have some of that in the morning as well! Any advice would be great! Love online parenting community!!!

  63. katrina says

    I have a six year old son who is repeating kindergarten who also attended prek when he was 3 couldn’t get him to go at 4 so I took him out of prek he has a social phobia,separation anxiety,ADHD,ADD,OCD,and agoraphobia,Closter phobia what should I do…he is now six and he still hates going to school,cries every day and begs me to home school him he has been this way since he was an infant he is still suffering with this and I feel so helpless…if any one who has any thought or suggestions please email them to me

  64. jameela says

    I have a worse problem than poor julia. My 3 and half year old daughter won’t leave me in the house for 5 min. I don’t work and we are home all day. She will not go to the supermarket or anywhere with her father without me. When I’m doing the ironing she lays on the floor next to me on her pillow and waits outside the shower for me when I cook she sits on the counter in the kitchen. I took her to school in the beginning of the year and she enjoyed it but cried like crazy. When I picked her up earlier she said I’m not going back to school I want to stay home. I then spent a day with her at a play school she loved it but saw me there all the time but didn’t want to go back if I don’t go to school with her. What do I do. Throw her in the deep end and drop her off at play school or leave her home for the year and it might be worse next year? Pls help!!

  65. minae says

    I know I’m late but I remember I had a stuffed toy and a picture of my mom and dad hanging from its neck. I always looked the photos and kissed them when I missed my parents and then cried a bit but stopped when I remembered that I was going to see them soon. I still have the stuffed toy and I’m 14 years old.


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