First Day of School: Helping Your Child Deal with Separation Anxiety

“Will my child be able to survive a few hours without seeing me?”

“How can I prevent them from throwing a tantrum once I leave the classroom?”

If you’re about to send your little one to a preschool, these might be some of the questions that would constantly bug you, especially if you think that your child might experience separation anxiety once school starts.

Why Do Children Experience Separation Anxiety?

Children form close relationships with their parents and as they grow older, feelings of security and familiarity can be difficult to let go of. This is why making the transition from a home environment to a childcare or preschool setting without their primary caregiver in sight can cause feelings of dread and anxiety. These feelings can even worsen when children see unfamiliar faces around them. According to experts, separation anxiety and autonomy are closely related. When children learn to walk, they begin to assert their independence but at the same time, they are not ready to fully separate from their parents. This explains why children tend to cry or cling to their parents once they see them leave the classroom.

How Can You Help Your Child Overcome Separation Anxiety?

The good things is, separation anxiety is temporary. There are ways that you can employ to help your child relax, overcome separation anxiety, and learn to look forward to going to school every day. Here are some strategies that can help you manage separation anxiety:

Practice at Home

dropping child off to school

Before the big day arrives, you can prepare your child by “playing school” at home. This is a great way to show your child what can be expected in a real classroom setting. Sing nursery rhymes, read stories, and then take a nap. You can also role-play and take turns playing the teacher, parent, and student.

In addition to practicing at home, you can also visit the child care center a few times so your child can meet their teachers and feel more familiar with the new environment. You can also ask the teacher how the daily schedule is structured so you can pattern your at-home role-play after it.

Make Goodbyes Short and Quick

It may sound simple but saying goodbye is the hardest thing to do. Goodbyes usually trigger outbursts and screams. While it might break your heart to hear your child cry as you leave the classroom, it is something that you must do. Don’t delay, don’t linger, hoping that they’d miraculously stop crying. Establish a goodbye routine so your child will know that it is time for you to leave. You can give your child a quick hug and kiss and then tell them that their teacher will take care of them while you’re away. Let them know that you will come back soon to pick them up.

Trust Your Teacher

Teachers are trained to handle preschool outbursts. They know how to divert your child’s attention and calm them down once you step out of the classroom. Once you and your child have said your goodbyes, muster up the courage to leave the classroom and let the teacher take over. Walking away doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent – you’re just letting your child and their teacher work it out together.

Always remember that it’s normal for some kids to feel sad, uneasy or have a meltdown during the first few days of school. While you’ve done your part to prepare your child for the big day, there’s no way you can predict how your child will act when the first day of school arrives. With the above tips in mind, you will be able to support your child during the transition.