Separation Anxiety

th-127 You registered your toddler for preschool months ago.

You’ve taken him to see his classroom and met the teachers. You’ve talked about how much fun he’s going to have each day. All bases have been covered. But wait, this was not what you pictured. Here’s what happened…

Breakfast was great, getting dressed was easy, you sang lots of songs on the way to preschool and now it’s time to say good-bye. All of the sudden, uh oh, big tears roll down his chubby little face, and the lower lips starts to pout and quiver.  Then a wail, loud enough to scare any stranger! Separation Anxiety, yikes! ….nothing breaks a parents’ heart more.

The good news…Separation Anxiety is a stage of development that comes as natural as learning to walk. This is called cognitive growth. What was once “out of sight out of mind” is no longer true. The thought of you leaving his sight is etched in your toddler’s mind and can cause fear and sadness. This inner conflict of dependence versus independence in toddlerhood can be a struggle for many. It can start around eight to ten months of age and sometimes lasts well into the third year or older. And sometimes disappears for a period of time and may bloom again when new situations arise. But have no fear. This is not permanent.

Here are some tips to help ease the pain:


  • Parents, make sure you feel comfortable with the preschool.  Your toddler will sense any uneasiness you may have.
  • If your toddler is old enough, talk about how much fun he is going to have at his new school.
  • Get a few books about starting preschool and read together.
  • Visit the school a few times before the first day and try to stay calm if he’s a bit clingy. This is all new for both of you.
  • Ask the teacher how she deals with separation anxiety. What does she do to redirect your toddler and make him feel safe?
  •  If possible, start with half days to make the transition easier.
  • Schedule the same drop-off and pick-up time each day. A consistent routine is so important. While your toddler can’t tell time, he will know that after a certain activity each morning or afternoon, mommy or daddy will pick him up.


  • Acknowledge his feelings. Say, “I know you feel sad when Mommy leaves. Let’s bake cookies after school!”
  • Stay calm and be patient when your toddler won’t let got of your leg!” I had one Mom that used to tell her toddler it was Mommy’s job to go to work and Jonathan’s job to have fun at school. This worked great!
  • ter school!” And make good on your promise.
  • If the drama starts and he won’t let you leave, don’t join in. Toddlers can sense a parent’s anxiety without you saying a word. Try and redirect to a center, some toys and do ask his teacher to help.
  • Before you leave, give your toddler a kiss inside each little hand. Tell him they are mommy’s kisses to hold until she comes back. These kisses will remind him how much she loves him. This will make your toddler’s heart smile.
  • Don’t make your good-byes too long. Hanging around for more than five minutes will only make the separation more difficult for both of you.
  • Don’t ever sneak out, this is not only disheartening to your toddler but breaks down his trust in you.
  • Don’t stand outside the door and look in the window. If your toddler sees you, this will send the message that this place may not be safe.
  • Ask his teacher if it is okay to bring a favorite “lovey” from home. This can be very comforting.
  • Separation anxiety can be more pronounced if your toddler isn’t quite himself. Let his teacher know, as it will make it easier for everyone.
  • Don’t stop by your toddler’s classroom to see how he is doing. This can be so disruptive to all.SUCCESS
  • When it’s pick up time, tell your toddler what a great job he did having fun and how proud you are!

Final Thought
Separation Anxiety is temporary. This is just another stage of development that helps your toddler blossom and grow into his own little person.  So stay calm, keep a smile on your face and know this too shall pass!


*My use of gender is for ease of reading, but applies to both male and female.

Blythe Lipman is the president of Baby Instructions.

She is passionate about babies, toddlers and their parents. After working in the field for over thirty-five years, she wrote her fourth award-winning book, HELP! MYTODDLER CAME WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS, now available at,, and all major bookstores. You can hear Blythe’s weekly radio show, Baby and Toddler Instructions each Wednesday, 11am EST @ Blythe is available for in-home, video and telephone consultations. You can contact Blythe at [email protected] or call her office (480)-510-1453. Become her Fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and Pinterest and visit her website:

© Blythe Lipman 2015