Child's Separation Anxiety

by NDFAuthors

  • Sep 04, 2013

It is time to go back to school and it may even be the first time for some children to experience school.

Many young ones of preschool age may go through separation anxiety and this can be a difficult thing for both a child and a parent.

I have been in both positions helping children through separation as a teacher and a parent and I would like to share what I have found to be helpful for me.

First day of school

Some kids can feel worried about going to school for the first time. The unknown can be a scary thing. They may wonder: “Who is my teacher? What if I need help? What if I don’t make friends? And what if my mommy and daddy don’t come back for me?“

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All these concerns are understandable for young children going to school for the first time. However, if you notice that these anxieties increase or become frequent and persistent enough to get in the way of school and other activities, your child might have separation anxiety disorder. This may require professional help but there are also many things that you as a parent can do to help.

  • It is important to validate your child’s feelings and to try and reassure them!
  • Be patient and try not to show your anxiety or irritation with their behavior.
  • If you are stressed and agitated they will be more worried.
  • It might be a good idea for a babysitter to drop off your child if you know your child has a harder time separating from you. A lot of times kids act out more desperately with a parent than with a babysitter.
  • Let them know that their teacher is there to help them. (If you can meet with the child’s teacher before school starts that can be helpful too.) Your child will feel more comforted seeing a familiar face on the first day of school.
  • Plan a playdate with one of the kids that will be in your child’s class and visit the school so the environment will be familiar to them. I did that with my son and separation was much smoother for both of us.
  • Make a book of photos of your child and your family so they can take the book with them and feel more connected to you. They can also share the book with friends and the teacher.
  • The best thing to do when you are dropping off your child is to get them engaged in an activity and not stay too long. You can tell them you are going to get coffee and you will be back soon to get them. Keep your goodbyes short and sweet. Reinforce that you will be back.

Remember: the responsibility for a good transition into school is not yours alone.

The teacher can help you with the transition. This should be a joint effort. Your child may also try and convince you not to take them to school even after a few days of being in school, but it is important to keep the routine of school.

  • Keeping them away from school will only reinforce the separation anxiety.
  • Keep reminding them of the positive aspects of school and that they are safe.

It is natural for a young child to feel anxious when you say goodbye. You yourself probably didn’t want to separate from your parents first day of school, terrified of the unknown. But with calmness and understanding you can help your child relieve these symptoms and actually enjoy going to school and meeting new friends.