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Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[MAY 5, 2006]  Q: My 4-year-old daughter is in preschool. She's been a somewhat reluctant participant but has managed to settle in. It's been several weeks now since the end of the spring break at her preschool, but we continue to have an emotional struggle when I drop her off. It breaks my heart to see her cry every morning. What can I do about this setback?

A: For some children, getting back on track after a break is difficult. And it's always hard for parents to watch their children fall apart when it's time to say goodbye. But what's going on is normal for children at this age. It's not uncommon for a child to say she doesn't want to go back to school or to have her cry and cling when you drop her off.

Your daughter is still very dependent on you. She enjoyed the security of being together during the holiday break, and being apart makes her feel unsure again. She no doubt also enjoyed being the center of your universe again. Now she has to go back to sharing and compromising.

There are some things you can do to ease her anxiety:

  • Get to school a little early so you'll have time for a special goodbye. Give extra hugs and kisses, or leave something of yours for your child to keep with her at school. For example, wear a scarf each day. When it's time for you to go, take it off and leave it with your daughter "to keep it safe." This will reassure her that you will be coming back to get her.

  • Draw a picture of a clock that shows the time you'll return. Say, "When the clock on the wall looks like this, I'll be here."

  • It may not work on the first or second day, but eventually the routine will be comforting to your child again.

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  • Reassure her that you'll still have special times together, even though it's school time again. Make plans for some fun things to do on the weekends this month.

  • Give her extra time in the morning to say goodbye to her room and special things. For the first few days, leave everything just as she left it. It will comfort her to see that her things are not disturbed while she is gone.

  • Ask her teacher if she can bring one of her favorite things to school to share: a favorite book, a photograph of family members or a pet. Are there objects she likes to use from the kitchen or the garden?

Stay in touch with your daughter's teacher about how she does. In the coming weeks, you should find that the goodbyes are getting easier.

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.

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