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First Day at School? Overcoming Separation Anxiety with Ease, expert advice by ESL Philippines

Starting preschool is a major milestone for children and parents alike. It’s an adventure filled with new faces, spaces, and routines. However, for many little ones, this transition can also bring about separation anxiety—a perfectly normal but sometimes challenging emotion.

At ESL Philippines, we specialize in turning those first-day tears into cheers. Here’s how you can help your child ease into the exciting world of learning with confidence:

1. Build a Connection with the Teacher

Reintroduce your child to their teacher before school starts. Spend some time together so your child can see that you trust and are comfortable with the teacher. This familiarity builds a bridge of trust for your child.

2. Quick Goodbyes are Best

Once you say goodbye, make it short and sweet. Prolonged farewells may increase a child’s anxiety and reinforce the idea that school is an undesirable place.

3. Stay Positive and Reassuring

When leaving, show your child that you are confident and comfortable with the separation. A cheerful wave or a funny goodbye face can make parting less painful.

4. Don’t Linger

The longer you stay, the harder it is for both of you. Let your child know you’ll be back soon and ensure they’re engaged in an activity before you say your final “See you later!”

5. Establish a Goodbye Ritual

Create a consistent way to say goodbye, like a kiss paired with a special hug (e.g., a butterfly hug). This ritual helps your child understand that it’s time for you to leave and reassures them of your return.

6. Consider a Reward System

Celebrate your child’s courage in facing school without fuss. Praise them or offer a small reward after school to reinforce positive behavior.

7. Make School a Familiar Place

Learn the names of your child’s classmates and mention them during conversations. “Look, there’s your friend Kelly! She looks like she’s having fun!” This familiarity makes the school environment feel safer and more inviting.

8. Building Emotional Intelligence through Play

Innovative programs at ESL Philippines have been developed to help preschoolers manage anxiety by engaging them in games that are designed to induce mild stress and then teach coping mechanisms through play. This method aims to strengthen parts of the brain involved in processing anxiety, like the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is underdeveloped in younger children.

By incorporating these strategies, you can help your child transition smoothly into preschool, making both your experiences and theirs more joyful and less stressful.


  • “Managing Preschool Separation Anxiety” on Verywell Family (Verywell Family)
  • “Supporting separation anxiety for children and parents in early childhood education” on HiMama Blog (Lillio Solution)
  • “Navigating Separation Anxiety in Preschool Children” on (Little Footprints Preschool)
  • “Anxiety in preschoolers needs its own kind of therapy” on Science News (Science News)
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