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Comfort Between the Lines: How Reading Together Can Ease Preschoolers’ Separation Worries

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It can be a heart-wrenching moment for parents and preschoolers: When the school bus or babysitter arrives, and it’s time to say goodbye. No matter how many times Mommy or Daddy explains “It’s only for a little while” or enthuses, “You’re going to have so much fun!,” tears and clinging may persist. One way parents can ease young children’s separation anxiety is by sharing books that explore the topic.

How can reading stories about separation help preschoolers (and parents!) cope?

  • Books can gently correct children’s misconceptions about separation and answer lingering questions. For instance, a child starting kindergarten may wonder whether the teacher will “like” her. Books that show teachers cheerfully welcoming students into the classroom may be reassuring.

  • Through sharing a story about “saying goodbye,” parents and children can experience separation from a comfortable distance. Feelings that may be difficult to express can be discussed in terms of the characters’ emotions.

  • Books let children know that they’re not alone in their fears. As they read aloud about a character’s nervous farewell, parents can point out that it’s natural to feel anxiety when entering a new situation.

  • Reading together about any potentially scary experience can help reduce the unknown. Fear is a normal byproduct of not knowing what to expect. Books can give children a “sneak peek” of a highly anticipated situation, decreasing the anxiety that comes with unfamiliarity.

Doctor-Recommended Books to Help Reduce “Toddler-Cling”

  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (Tanglewood Press, 2006)
  • A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn (Tanglewood Press, 2006)
  • A Pocketful of Kisses by Audrey Penn (Tanglewood Press, 2007)
  • Bye-Bye Time by Elizabeth Verdick (Free Spirit Publishing, 2008)
  • I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas (HarperCollins, 2004)


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