It is common for pre-schoolers to have fears. Starting preschool is a time of great change and independence from Mom and this can trigger a normally very settled child to have fears and worries. These fears can cause tears and upset, sleeplessness and set-backs in toilet training and other areas of development. Your child may know exactly what they are afraid of or they may just feel scared without knowing why. Either way there are things you can do to help.
Common Pre-schooler Fears:
- Separation – Pre-schoolers are still young enough to suffer separation anxiety and leaving your child at preschool for the first few times will likely be hard on you both. Don’t worry if your child cries and clings to you it is natural and although upsetting it does not mean they do not like their new school they just do not want to be there without you. Leave calmly, hug them, tell them you will come back and depart purposefully; prolonged goodbyes are not helpful to either you or your child or the teachers. It helps to find out from the teachers what your child did that day and chat to your child about their daily activities and routine. You will find that your child settles soon after you leave and these departures become easier on you both.
- Using the potty – So many preschools insist on children being potty trained and this can put a pressure on you and your little one to get the job done for a deadline. If potty training is becoming a stress speak to the preschool and find out how strict the rule is and perhaps put the starting date back a bit to allow more time. The stress of starting preschool can make a reliably trained pre-schooler regress and little accidents can happen, but this should be very temporary and the preschool will be used to this, just be sure to pack spare clothes.
- Getting lost – Preschool can be scary when unfamiliar rooms and a big playground have yet to be explored. Make time to show your child around the school and playground and to meet the teachers. An older sibling is a great help but if not perhaps see if you know an older child at the school who can buddy up with your child until they find their way confidently. The preschool will likely do this anyway and it will all soon be very familiar and the fear will subside.
- No friends to play with – Facing a big class of strangers is daunting for your child particularly if they do not know any other children at the preschool. The school will soon put children together and encourage them to play together. Talk to your child about their friends and see if you can arrange to meet outside of school time for play once you get to know people.
- Circle time shyness – Some children feel frightened of participating in circle time especially if they are shy. If your child shows signs of this fear speak to the teacher who will have ways to minimize their discomfort and to gradually bring them out of themselves without intimidating them with too much spot-light.
With all preschool fears it can be difficult to ascertain exactly what is wrong but the important thing is to encourage talking, give time to listen and gently explore what the fears might be. Do not minimize fears as this can put more pressure on a child who feels that not only are they afraid but there is an expectation that they are not to be afraid. If they are afraid they will not make friends and you say “of course you will make friends”, this will put pressure on them that you expect them to make friends.
Let your child take the lead in finding solutions to their fears as at this age pre-schoolers can resist suggestions from parents. Stay calm, keep talking, build good relationships with the teachers it is all about communication. Remember fears pass.