Parents' Anxiety about Starting Preschool

Parent Q&A

2.5 year old separating to preschool for the first time Dec 9, 2020 (12 responses below)
Anxious about 2 year old's preschool transition during pandemic Jul 13, 2020 (13 responses below)
  • Considering sending my daughter to nursery school for the first time at 2.5. She has been with me full time since birth. She has always been very attached. She now has a secure attachment to another caregiver (my best friend) who she spends 4 hours with each week, and would happily do more. But that is much different than a group setting, with masked teachers (we are considering a small private school with 10 kids in the classroom). Does anyone have experience with separating for 5 hour stretches at 2.5, with a highly sensitive child? I am strong proponent of the RIE philosophy but am not finding anything relevant via Lansbury. I believe my concern in this area is far from the mainstream so I am looking particularly for people who have a similar experience/situation (my mom said, "what do you mean, just drop her off and tell her you'll be back later."). Thank you!

    Hearts Leap is a preschool that has a very loving, attachment-focused approach to caregiving. Could be a good option! 

    My son was with me exclusively til he was 15 months old (so a different situation) but I was also worried about his transition to part-time daycare, and the provider suggested I take him there to play before dropping him off. It was over the summer during Covid so I wore a mask and we primarily played while the children were outside. The first time I took my son he clung to me and didn’t want to leave my lap. Then he gradually warmed up. We ended up visiting every day for two weeks, and then doing a trial drop off for 30 minutes and then a couple longer trial drop offs. I’m not sure if that whole process was necessary but by the time I did drop my son off it went incredibly smoothly and he didn’t even cry. Every child and situation is different but I felt this worked for us. Good luck!

    Not exactly the same situation as you, but I'm also a fan of Janet Lansbury and RIE and also spent a significant time as my daughter's sole caregiver before she turned 2 - she was with me at home until age 1, then had a nanny she adored for 6 months until COVID forced us to end the nanny relationship, leaving her home with me and my husband while we attempted to continue working, and then we started at a preschool in September right as she turned 2. We decided to send her for the full day and I was worried how she'd do since she's never had a regular playgroup or anything even remotely like a daycare or school setting. There were a couple of things the school did that I think helped tremendously with the transition, and maybe you could ask for something similar. First, they sent a teacher to each new child's house the week before we started, for an outdoor, masked meet-and-greet, and the teacher brought a stuffed animal that my daughter would be able to recognize in the classroom on her first day (to this day we still hear about "puppy"!). Then they had a 30-minute window the day before school started for her to come into the classroom with both parents, see all the fun toys, and meet the teachers (no other kids were there at the same time). On the first day she barely looked back when we did the curbside dropoff, which we hadn't practiced before. Was not phased at all by the masks and was perfectly fine keeping hers on all day. I was shocked! She didn't nap for a couple of days but by day 3 or 4 she was napping at school. I know every kid is different so I hope you have a smooth transition and that your daughter loves school! :)

  • Are there other parents out there who are worried about how their child's new preschool will be handling the preschool transition, given social distancing guidelines? Our child's preschool, which we enrolled him in many months ago, is being fastidious about keeping class size small, having teachers wear masks, sanitizing, etc. My anxiety is *not due to concern about infection*. 

    I'm anxious about how my son will react to being dropped off at a school where all the adults are wearing masks, where they may not allow me or his father to enter the room, let alone stay for a few hours, and where the caregivers may not be physically comforting distressed children, and where children will be encouraged to keep a distance from one another. This all sounds really dystopic to me and I'm worried about how my son will be able to adjust to this kind of situation. 

    I'm having the same anxities. The transition is hard no matter what, but is definitely heightened now. It might be worth getting some pictures of the preschool teachers with masks on and off and having him learn their names, and also to have your kid see you wear a mask regularly so it seems normal. Oof.

    Hi! My daughter is 2.5 and returned to preschool a couple months ago (when they opened).  I had similar concerns - not about contracting the virus but the new "norm".  I'll be honest, I haven't noticed a difference with her at all.  The preschool teachers are so caring and she loves the outside playtime and interaction with other children.  It's amazing how resilient children are. However, note that kids usually have a hard time with the preschool transition in general.  It took my daughter about a week so that is normal and shouldn't be confused with the whole mask thing.   

    Hi! I am actually in the exact situation that you are in. I plan on moving our child to the waitlist and reevaluate closer to January. My child has only been cared for at home, so I had the very very exact concerns you do. Aside from those concerns, something else I kept in mind was how the school responded to initial closures and how they handled tuition. My particular school had interactive zoom meetings and YouTube videos of teacher doing lessons, and asked parents to continue paying tuition with different tiers depending on your situation (although the tuition being asked was still significant). All of this might sound great...if you had an older child but for 2s-3s with short attention spans, it does not seem worth the tuition they are asking. With the current raise in Covid cases and the predicted surge during flu season, I feel like we’re looking at another school closures.

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related page: Adjusting to Preschool


April 2004

For many, many months now, I've been excited about my one and only starting preschool. She'll be 2 years + 5 months old when she starts in June (3 full days a week). I have no doubts about the school we've chosen for her and the care she will receive there.

But now that I've actually submitted the application and deposit, I'm having all sorts of anxiety and fears!! Any advice from you parents out there about how to deal with this? I'm fretting over things like will the teacher comfort her when she cries? What if she doesn't eat her lunch? Will she go hungry all day? Who's going to watch her on the playground?

Please, no suggestions about delaying preschool (currently she watches a lot of videos all day with her grandparents). I just need advice about how to deal with my neurosis and what would help *ME* adjust!

Nervous Mama



From my experience with my now 3 1/2 year daughter, you couldn't have picked a better age to start your child in preschool. Right at 2 1/2 my daughter went through a huge developmental leap that required her to interact independantly with other kids and adults. I am a stay at home Mom and I never would have guessed how much being away with others would be critical at that age. As for your concerns about her eating or playground supervision, I found that my daughter is much more self sufficient in a preschool situation than she ever is/was at home. She eats, naps, plays safely, plays nicely etc. far more than when I am there to watch her. Your best reassurance will come when your daughter LOVES her new school - There may be an ajustment period when she cries when she is left, etc. but I don't know any kids that ultimately didn't love playing with other kids in a structured environment. It will be a wonderful alternative to grandma's for her. Congratulations for finding a school that you have so much confidence in and giving your daughter this opportunity. jac



I could have written your post! Our son, 2 yrs and 5 mos, is starting preschool next week for 2 half-days a week. I am feeling very anxious as well. Is it possible for your daughter to start with half-days (you mentioned that she's with her grandparents during the day now-- could they continue to babysit in the afternoons?)? I guess I am preparing myself by accepting the fact that there will be an adjustment period (up to 2 months, maybe?) and that I will probably leave him there in tears every morning for awhile. Ugh, it sounds horrible. And then also, I think of the babies and 1-year-olds and 2-year-olds that spend hours away from their parents and actually love their daycares, preschools and teachers. That's what I'm hoping for. I can't wait the read the other responses to your post! anon



After lots of work to attend open houses, think about what would be best for my child, what to apply to, applications, hoping that we would have at least some options, I ended up feeling quite ambivalent, not necessarily anxious about my daughter going to preschool. For me, I decided, it was 2 things. First, a feeling of being a little bit sad that my child is growing up, into this next phase... some sadness for her babyhood. She is currently in childcare 4 days a week so it wasn't separation from me, just an end of a phase of life.... Secondly, a bit of a let down, that after all that work, I wasn't totally thrilled with the options. Maybe these same things are leading to your concern? Margaret