Separation Anxiety and the First Day of School

by Jennifer Weberman on 08/28/2012

The day your little one goes off to his first day of preschool or day care is going to be an emotional one…for both of you. He or she is likely to experience a mix of curiosity, excitement and, most likely, a natural sense of worry over the idea of being separated from you. It’s a natural response to the change, considering that up to now you have been the central figure in your child’s world. But with preschool coming, his world is about to get a whole lot bigger. Whether its your first child or your fourth, this is still a big step for both of you.

The Kissing Hand

Addressing this type of separation anxiety is one of the most endearing children’s books I’ve ever read, Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand. The story deals beautifully with the stress and discomfort that a child – and their parents – can experience when it comes to saying goodbye. The story follows a mother raccoon and her little one as the first day of school is approaching. Mrs. Raccoon empathizes with her boy’s feelings, and she describes for him all the exciting new experiences that are waiting for him at school. Then, to help him cope, she shares with him a very special secret that I believe could also help you and your little one get through the first school day with fewer tears.

Before school starts, pick up a copy of the book. (Please note that my claim of “fewer tears” refers to the first day of school only…I can almost guarantee you’ll cry when you read the book, as I’ve never known a mother who could get through it with dry eyes!) You’ll read how the “Kissing Hand” is a special way Mrs. Raccoon created for her son to carry her love with him to school, or anywhere else he might go. She places a kiss in the palm of his hand and assures him that anytime he misses her and needs to feel her love, he can place the “Kissing Hand” against his cheek and it will fill him with “toasty warm thoughts.” *Read the book with your child, then try the following activity together to help you both prepare for this milestone, and to hold onto the affection you each have for one another, even while you’re separated.

Making a Kissing Hand

What you’ll need: Construction paper in red or pink, plus two other colors of your choice; scissors; magic markers; glue.

Using the markers, trace each other’s hands on a piece of construction paper. Then cut out the traced hands and glue them onto separate pieces of construction paper (of a different color than the hands), or any decorative card stock you find in the scrapbooking section of your local craft store. This background piece of paper should be a rectangle that allows for a one-inch border to remain around the hand.

Next, cut out two one-inch hearts in pink or red, and glue them to the center of each cutout hand (this part will look just like the little raccoon’s hand does in the story!). Add more hearts or other decorations around the border to make your “Kissing Hand” unique to just the two of you.

Now for the magic! Place a loving kiss in the center of the cutout of your own hand and give it to your child. Then have your child place a kiss inside of the cutout of his hand and ask him to give it to you. Most importantly, let your child know that as long as he carries it with him, any time he misses you, he can place his “Kissing Hand” against his cheek and say “Mommy loves me,” and he will be able to feel your affection all day long.

Making a “Kissing Hand” is as simple as placing a kiss on your child’s palm, but if you take the time to share this craft together, it will make that much stronger of an impact, and that much sweeter a memory. If your child is particularly nervous on his first day of school, keep in mind that giving them something to look forward to at the end of the day (like a trip to the park or a pit stop for a special snack) can be helpful, too. For other great tips on managing separation anxiety and preschool, check out this article from


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jodi August 29, 2013 at 12:23 AM

I love this book and activity!! I am a kindergarten teacher and love to read this story on the first day of school to the children and their families. I have the parents place either a sticker or a stamp on the back of their child’s hand before they leave for the day. It really does help the day go smoother!


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