5 Ways to Prepare for Separation Anxiety in Preschoolers

Sep 1, 2020 9:00:00 AM / by Amber Lappin

Returning to our church buildings, whenever that may be, will certainly be cause for celebration for children’s ministers who have been desperately missing the kids and families they’ve grown to love. Here’s a simple truth—even though you’ve been looking forward to welcoming your preschoolers back, there is a very strong possibility your excitement will not be shared by all your kiddos. After a very long absence, separating from the families they’ve been hanging out with for months (and months!) could be very jarring. Remember that preschoolers tend to balk at anything that interrupts their expectations. Here are some suggestions of things you can do to ease the difficulty for them (and their families!).


  1. Maintain contact: whenever possible, make an effort to keep regular contact. Whether it’s short videos that you post on social media for families to watch together, video chats, photo postcards, or a drive-by parade, every effort you make to keep the happy memories fresh will go a long way when it’s time to return.
  2. Keep it simple & familiar: When it’s FINALLY safe to meet up again, keep your preschool plans as simple as you can. It’s best to keep to a familiar routine, use “old favorite” songs, and staff the room with as many people who have been there before as you’re able. Don’t give in to the temptation to try a big surprise or exciting event, or a party. Older kids may appreciate novelty, but it could add to the stress of your littles.
  3. Prep families: Once you’ve planned your day, consider posting or mailing out your agenda for the return day. You can include what songs you’ll be singing, which story you’ll be hearing, a description of familiar games or toys they’ll be experiencing, an image of the craft they’ll be making and perhaps even photos of the people who will be caring for them. This way, parents can review all of this with their kiddos, easing apprehension and preparing them with excited anticipation.
  4. Be “pre-prayered”: The absolute best thing you can do during this time of preparation is to spend time in prayer for the children and their families. Petitions for peaceful hearts all around, including in yourself and your team, are a wonderful way to ask God to calm the seas ahead. Pray with your team, too. They’re likely a little worried about how the first weeks will look. A time of seeking comfort will go a long way.
  5. Expect a few tears: Even if you do everything “right”—the odds are that you may have a rocky start with at least a few of your preschoolers. Tears and even tantrums are very developmentally appropriate reactions to change. Be patient, have extra help—and tissues on hand—and remember that it’ll get better with time.

Topics: Early Childhood Ministry

Amber Lappin

Written by Amber Lappin

Amber is a speaker and writer with over 25 years of experience in early childhood development and children’s ministry. She works as an associate professor at Mt. San Jacinto Community College in the child development education department, and as a grant program director for two nationally accredited preschools. Amber enjoys "small town" Southern California living with her husband of 25 years, Jason, and their three children.


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