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Separation Anxiety: Easing Your Kids Back to School

Separation Anxiety: Easing Your Kids Back to School

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Separation Anxiety: Easing Your Kids Back to School

Re-enactment of My Happy Time Drop-Off Ritual

When I was four years old, my mother enrolled me in Happy Time pre-school.  We referred to it as Sad Time, but Misery Time or My-Mothers-Depositing-Me-In-A-Torture-Chamber Time would probably have been more appropriate.   3 days a week for a full school year, I cried, screamed, kicked, and for the first half of the year, even became physically ill.  My mom was firm.  She made me go in every time.  Sometimes she cried, too.  She still has a note written by one of the teachers reporting that I had smiled. That was breaking news.

Kindergarten was a little less extreme.  Fortunately, I had a lovely teacher, Mrs. Gargiulo, who held my hand on that first day.  At this point, Im not sure if its a real memory, or was just told so many times that Ive created a little movie in my head, but I do recall that kindergarten was a tiny bit easier.

In first grade, I found myself in a slightly less supportive environment.  No hand holding as I recall.  But I made it through and coped the way a six year old does, by writing four sentence stories about home.  My most memorable being a step by step recipe for how my mom makes me a baloney sandwich (which I still havethe paper, not the bologna).

I suffered from pretty severe separation anxiety.  I dont know if it would have been classified as a disorder.  But it was painful and traumatic.  My parents did a pretty good job of pushing me, but knowing intuitively when I was challenged beyond my ability.  They probably would have been thrilled to have the internet to turn to for tips and support.

So Mom and Dad:  Sorry for that first seven years of my life bit.  If you review these tips for dealing with childhood separation anxiety, youll see you did a pretty bang up job.  Also evidenced by that fact that I dont live in your basement.

Easing Separation Anxiety:  Tips for School from Helpguide.org

Address the cause for avoidance of school.

Initiate a plan for your child to return to school immediately. This may include gradual reintroduction with partial days at first.

If the school can be lenient about late arrival at first, it can give you and your child a little wiggle room to talk and separate at your child’s slower pace.

Find a place at school where your child can go to reduce anxiety during stressful periods. Develop guidelines for appropriate use of the safe place.

Allow the child contact with home.

At times of stress at school, a brief phone call—a minute or two—with family may substantially reduce anxiety.

Send notes for your child to read.

You can place a note for your child in his or her lunch box or locker. A quick “I love you!” on a napkin can reassure a child.

Provide assistance to the child during interactions with peers.

An adults help, whether it is from a teacher or counselor, may be beneficial for both the child and his or her peers.

Just like at home, every good effort—or small step in the right direction—deserves to be praised.

Filed Under: Development and Mental Health Tagged With: afraid to go to school, child anxiety, how to calm a nervous child, my child is anxious, nervous child

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Hi! My name is Meaghan O’Keeffe. I’m a freelance writer and Registered Nurse in the Boston area.

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