Managing Your Child’s Separation Anxiety

Author: Rachel Jones, LMFT

Transitioning back into the school year can be difficult for little ones, especially since there has been less structure and a lot more flexibility with parents working from home. Here are some things to keep in mind and some ways to practically apply some emotional regulating skills.

  • Prep, prep, prep as much as possible. Get a tour of the school. Let your little see you talking with their teacher. This gives them the sense that Mom or Dad has checked out the situation, therefore it’s safe. Talk to the administration to get an idea of what the first day will be like and relay this to your kiddo. It’s important to be as detailed as possible. Knowing what to expect will help lessen the anxiety for your little.
  • “Okay” the difficult emotion. Try not to downplay it with a “you’ll be fine…” Allow them to feel what they feel and validate the emotion. “It can hard to be at a new school. It’s okay to feel nervous.”
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep or lie to try and get the kiddo from feeling nervous. It’s important to be honest. Don’t say, “If you don’t like it, I’ll be right back to get you,” if in fact you won’t be able to. Be clear and direct even if you want to say a white lie to make the transition easier.
  • Create intentional bonding time with your kiddo after school. Don’t be surprised if your child is especially clingy after starting preschool/school. Create some special time for connection. This will help them regulate their emotions and reassure them that time with them is still very important to you.
  • Create a transition ritual. This can be as simple as a hug or you can create a fun handshake. Practice this at home, let your child get creative and playful with it! Another example of a transition ritual is matching “miss you/love you” stickers. Go to the store and let your child pick out some stickers, keep them in the car and put one on your hand and one on your child’s hand – explain that it’s a reminder that they are loved and you miss them and can’t wait to see them when the school day is over.
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