My son is 3.5 and just started preschool. How can I calm him down and stop him crying before school?
First, welcome to MDC.
I think you need to explain a bit more before people can post. Full-day pre-school or part time? Crying a lot all morning or only right before or when arriving at the facility? What does he say about going? ...?
Biggest tips I can give without any more details are:
1. When you drop off and say goodbye, you mean it. Do not drag out the scene with extra hugs and kisses, one last wave... it makes it worse for him, and you. Say goodbye, give one good hug and kiss and walk out, confidently, knowing your child will have a good time. He may scream and shout, but you going back to him only implies he has a real reason to shout. Your happy wave and leaving implies he will have fun and you trust him to be there. Your mood and confidence will be picked up by him.
2. for the first two weeks, gradually extend the stay, and be present. On the first day, we were there together, for maybe 15 min or half an hour. Then we went home together. Next day we stayed an hour. Next day I said goodbye and left, but really I was out of his sight, in an office room upstairs. So I could be called on a moments notice. I was on a sofa in the office room, reading a magazine. The day care providers knew I was there. When my kids had a problem, on the first few days they would come get me and I would then take them home. They increaed the time, as my kids got more comfortable with the enviornment, the other kids, and the care givers. After a week I just went home, and he had some short days, but by week 2 he was basically there full time.
3. Different kids are going to have hugely different experience, so what works for my child may not work for yours. My DS started daycare and was fine in less than two weeks, barely a sniffle. My DD started 2 years later at the same age, at the same place, and she screamed to high heaven, and held on to me for dear life every time I came to pick her up, as if she had been beaten and traumitized in that awful place, for over a month. Same place, same wonderful daycare providers, she was used to the place from having picked up DS, but wow was her reaction 180 degrees.
OTOH, when DS started kindergarten, he was overwhelmed and sad, and kept to himself, for a long time, before making friends. Whereas DD, the one who screamed at daycare, started kindergarten as queen of the palace, as if she owned the place. She had no adjustment time at all. I took her in the first day and they had a huge field trip planned and said she should stay there with some of the other new kids to adjust to the new place and she flat out said "no way, I am coming too!" Then she told me to leave and was mad when I came to pick her up early.
This is a really good article on helping children manage separation anxiety. I tried a bunch of tips with my son (he's 4 now) and they all worked really well. Big hugs to you though -- tears in the morning are the worst! :)