Question:  I am an experienced teacher, and I am also a mother of two – one a kindergartner who is having serious separation issues from me.  As a preschool teacher I deal with this on a regular basis, but as a parent I feel lost.  He has gone to preschool and has had no issues until now.  We are firm but loving and I am doing all of the tactics I tell my parents to do, yet I cannot help him adjust.  The school he attends is wonderful and is giving support, but what am I missing?

Myrna Shure:
  I think the first thing to think about is why your son is having separation anxiety in kindergarten but not in preschool.  There might be a problem he is experiencing at school, perhaps a classmate is upsetting him, or the adjustment to larger class size – and therefore receiving less personal attention.  To find out what is bothering him, try this:  Start with asking about positive, fun things so he’ll more likely open up.  Ask:  “Do you like building with blocks?”  “What do you like to build?”  “Tell me about that.”  If your son says he doesn’t like to build with blocks, ask about painting, sliding down the slide, until you find an activity he likes.  Then talk about that.

Now ask: “Is there anything happening at school that you don’t like?  If needed, ask: “Is someone bothering you?  Asking questions like these shows you son that you care how he feels.  Once you learn what’s on your son’s mind, you can handle it from there.

Another possibility is whether your son attended the same preschool where you were teaching?  Perhaps the physical separation created anxiety.  If it truly is simply a matter of feeling abandoned, or stress from your absence, ask him what he’d like to do together after school, follow-through with any reasonable requests, and he’ll have that to look forward to.  The important thing is not to linger yourself, explain to him that you have to go to work, that you’ll be back after school – and then just leave.  It won’t be long before he’ll be just fine.