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Separation Anxiety for a 3 Year Old???

I have a 3 year old little girl who I think at one time might have adjusted well if I had not coddled her to much. How ever I did and now I seem to be paying for it. I have just enrolled her in preschool and I even stay but I have to be outside in the waiting room. Now not only does she cry before i drop her off but the night before talks about it and frets about it all night and even cry's. She is to the point she is stressed and always asking me "Am I going to preschool tomorrow?" then if I change the subject or answer her yes she still cry's then asks me if I can stay a lot of minutes with her. Am I to late on training her to be independent? Will she grow out of it before Kindergarten when I will have to leave her crying or not? I don't want her to hate school becuae of it. Please any one help me with this one.

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This might not be the most popular answer, but why force preschool on her? I have mine in, but she is a very social butterfly and doesn't care about being left. She looooooves it! If she were to freak out for more than a week, I would probably have pulled her out. There are other ways for her to get her socialization and at three, she wants mommy. You could do playdates, gymnastics, kindermusik, etc. instead.

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This might not be the most popular answer, but why force preschool on her? I have mine in, but she is a very social butterfly and doesn't care about being left. She looooooves it! If she were to freak out for more than a week, I would probably have pulled her out. There are other ways for her to get her socialization and at three, she wants mommy. You could do playdates, gymnastics, kindermusik, etc. instead.

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Some kids adjust better than others. In my opinion preschool for a 3 year old is unnecessary. Take her home and enjoy her being little and I promise she will happily wave good bye to you by the time Kindergarten rolls around.

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My oldest daughter (now 25) was scared of people. She hated it if anyone talked to her. She would cry easily and hated the church nursery. I started an in-home daycare when she was 2. After that I always worried that she would hate school. Her birthday is in December. So she was a late 5 when she started school. I worried for nothing. She never fussed at all.

As far as preschool goes, I think you should take her out. They have prescious little time to be little. I don't think there is any reason to baby her. Teach her to pick up her toys, keep her room clean, listen to you, follow instructions, be polite, etc. Take her to places where she'll be around kids some. Find a play group maybe. But by all means, why send her to a place that she dislikes? Maybe a part-time in home daycare might get her a little more prepared? Many times we in home providers have an odd day here or there when other parents are gone. We can take these gaps and make them available to stay at home moms for their little ones to come and play and be part of a group. BUT,for kids that have separation anxiety it can be difficult to go so little.

Talk with her about her fears. Ask her if anyone is picking on her. There's always a reason they feel this way. But it could be nothing to do with the school and just that she loves you so much.

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Maybe you can encourage her to make friends, and schedule a playdate with a child from the preschool, so she has something to look forward too.

Staying around can actually make the situation worse, so I would suggest to drop her off and pick her up early. Do this a few days... each day spreading the pick up time until later. She will eventually become comfortable and oklay with it. After a short while lot of kids cry for a minute or two, and then are fine once their parents leave.

Talk preschool up, find out the schedule so you can help her look forward to it, "tomorrow, you will be learning about whales and finger painting!".

Also, I was a nursery leader at church for a while. The children whose parents hovered and made a big deal out of leaving... usually had children who screamed and cried. Keep it direct, simple, one hug and kiss and a promise to come back later. But when a parent becomes over emotional about leaving a child, that can help create the anxiety. This was a great question answered by a professional:

"Beware of overprotection. Have faith in your child to handle change, even though it may be a little painful and scary. One problem that occurs from overprotection, is not wanting to allow your child to experience feelings and to deal with them. It is normal for some children to feel sad when separating from parents (even for short times.) It is a great life lesson to discover that they will not continue to feel sad and that they are capable of learning to feel better again. It is also a lesson in trust that those you love do come back again. "

If you feel she isn't adjusting, try socializing her something less hands off, like what the first mom suggested, play groups, reading time at libraries, gym, swimming... You can enroll her in preschool next year.

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I own a preschool and have dealt with separation anxiety. You didn't mention how long she has been going. If it has been a while and she is still not adjusting then I would take her out and try again later. If it is under a month then I would stick with it. There are some things you can try. Talk about it with her and ask what she is afraid of. Is she scared you won't come back? Is she afraid of the other children? Does she like her teacher? If she can't give a definite answer then try bringing her a little early. Sometimes shy children do not like walking into a classroom that is up and running, it can be intimidating. Try going 15 minutes early and walk her in when there are less children and see if that helps her. I also would not stay, hanging around only makes it worse trust me. She needs to learn to rely on herself and her teachers for comfort, with you there she will not mingle or separate. You can help her choose a special snack for her to bring into school (check with the teacher of course) and have her pass it out with the teacher. Sometimes that puts them in control and helps them to feel comfortable. Also, give her a picture of you so she can look at you when she misses you and tell her you are always with her. Sometimes it takes time but in most cases children will end up running into school. Good luck I know how difficult it is to see your little one so upset.

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Hi J..

This is a tough one for us mom's. Tugs at the heartstrings. And it doesn't help matters at all when we blame ourselves, so know that you have done what you felt was best for your child, and you will continue to do that.

It does sound like your daughter is experiencing separation anxiety, but I just wanted to share a little info from our first experience in preschool, just in case something like this could be going on with your daughter.

My son (now 4 1/2) started preschool last year, and went 2 half days each week. He started out just fine, had no problem with me leaving him there, not even on the first day. He did great for the first couple months, but after a short while, he started seeming to be distressed by going to school. There was one incident where a child came out of the restroom, and swatted my son in the forehead with his belt buckle (who puts a 3 year old in a belt, with a buckle in preschool? but I'll digress on that one.) I just let that go, and figured it was an isolated accident. But my son's distress continued, to the point where you are, where the day before, he'd be asking if he had preschool the next day. If I said yes, he'd cry and whine that he didn't want to go. And when we would get to school, he'd cry for me to stay with him, and he'd want me to hold him, and didn't want me to leave. Eventually, I'd get him calmed down with the teacher's help, and I'd leave him there, with a huge pit in my stomach, counting the minutes til I could pick him up.

As it turned out, there were a couple of kids in the class who had terrible behavior, and were regularly physically aggressive with the other kids. The teacher had been trying to work with the kids by implementing consequences for the behaviors, but had met with resistance from the parents, who didn't see their child's behavior as problematic. Long story short, she recommended I move my son from the afternoon to morning class, (as well as a couple other well behaved children), where the classroom dynamic was far more peaceful, and the children were much more docile. And thank God she did. My son was like a different child. Well, actually, he was like the kid that started preschool that year. No more crying or asking me to stay from the first day in the new class until the end of the year. It turns out that he and a couple other kids were so affected by the chaos in that other class that they were just overwhelmed. The teacher told me that there were days that she'd have my son on one knee, and another little girl in the class on the other, and together, they'd just be looking at the chaos in the room wondering what on earth is going on in there. Now, I get that perhaps the teacher should have had more control of the kids in her room, but whatever the case was, I'm just so grateful she told me what was going on, because it DEFINITELY was the reason my son started having such fear about being at school.

I'd try to look into whether there could be some dynamic in your daughter's class that could be distressing to her. It was a huge relief when we found out about what was going on in my son's class, and moved him. And I agree, we don't want our kids to develop their fundamental feelings about going to school from a bad first experience.

Best wishes to you. I know how tough this can be.

No need to "train" your child--she's wonderfully healthy and normal and attached to the people who matter most to her. Congrats on raising a child who values people more than things! That's so rare and beautiful these days!
At age 3, she is still very much a baby, and that is OK. Yes, she will grow out of the stress and clinginess with time, but it is so important that you meet her needs for security and connectedness instead of using all your energy to convince her those needs are not real. You are not coddling if you are meeting her needs, so spare yourself any guilt you may feel from being a terrifically sensitive, intuitive, responsive mother. A need met will disappear; a need denied festers forever--look at all the teens who have shut out positive adult mentors in favor of total peer-orientation and all the adults in unhealthy relationships. A little more healthy attachment and less "independence" could have served them well as they developed into mature, confident people.
Independence in very young children is overrated--learning to trust is a more valuable skill at age 3, I believe. And forced independence often looks like nervous insecurity in small children, instead of happy confidence.
If you need this preschool to work as a child-care arrangement while you work, consider reading Elizabeth Pantley's book "The No-Cry Seperation Anxiety Solution." Pantley is gentle and respectful and her techniques are positive and effective. Consider making a point of what Dr. Gordon Neufeld calls "transferring attachment," where she is allowed to be with both you and the teacher and you make it clear that she is meant to trust and respond to the teacher: "Jenny, this is Miss Smith. She knows where all the crayons are and she is ready to read you a story. I'm leaving, but while I'm gone, Miss Smith will help you. I'll be back at noon. Thank you, Miss Smith, for helping Jenny."
But if this preschool is not necessary and is just meant as a "fun experience," seriously consider backing out and enjoying your baby. There is no academic experience she needs right now that you cannot provide for her by spending meaningful time together reading, talking, and doing ordinary daily activities.
Another book that helped me understand my children better is "Hold On To Your Kids" by Gordon Neufeld. It really changed my perspective on the perceived importance of independence in children.
Best wishes!

It is never too late and you did nothing wrong, some kids are just insecure with new places and people. I have two I raised them both the same and one dives in and plays with new kids the other clings to me for an hour or so before venturing out. I am not sure about what kind of pre-schoole you are in and how often she goes, but if you can cut back to just a few days a week and sort of ease her into it that may help. Also try to set up play dates with kids in her class so she has a buddy to look forward to seeing. Another thing I have been doing is set up situations for your daughter to do things with out you, go to the park with a friend or family member and then praise her for being a big girl. Recently I found out both my kids respond so much better when I praise the good instead of time out for the bad. It sounds like a no brainer, but I think we get busy and forget to praise our kids. Even the little things like getting dressed by herself or any independance she shows praise her for it. I also think the threes are a scardy cat stage as my son recently won't go down slides or go in bouncy houses with out time to warm up to it. He used to jump right in but these things are all of a sudden scary so I think with reassurance and consistancy this too shall pass.

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