How to Help Your Child With Separation Anxiety

7 Tips on What To Do Before They Start School

When the start of school begins each August, children are starting to feel anxious about this upcoming transition from one routine to another very different one. After the tranquil days of summer, jumping into school can be a bit daunting, especially for children who struggle with separation anxiety. If you think your child may have difficulties adjusting or you already know your child has separation anxiety, read further to review some tips and tricks on how to combat this matter.

separation anxiety first day of school
7 Tips on How to deal with Children's Separation Anxiety on the First Day of School

Dos and Don’ts: What To Do Now?

1 – Do begin by easing into the subject before your child goes to school. Getting acquainted with the topic prepares them for what’s to come. Talk in an uplifting tone, include details about how you’ll pick them up from school, reassure them by telling them about your own experiences, help them pick out their backpack, and select their lunch with some of their favorite snacks—all these things give your child more consolation and limit the amount of surprises they will have to face on that day.

2- Don’t show signs of worry or stress as best you can. What you feel reflects in your child, so it’s important to remain calm for their sake as much as your own. Also, try not to mention things like “Are you nervous about your first day?” because this will cause your child to feel more anxious than they already are. Remember that during this period, they look to you for reassurance and guidance.

3- Do try to show them their school beforehand! If they have an older sibling that attends the same school, bringing your younger child will get them acquainted with the environment and the people around them. You can also take them on school tours to show them where their classes will be and to meet their future teachers.

4- Don’t linger too long when saying goodbye. Goodbyes that last a minute too long or staying for a long time because your child is crying means they will think you are going to stay, and this makes it more difficult for them to say goodbye to you. It’s especially difficult to break away from your children on their first day of school, but making sure to keep the goodbyes short and sweet will become a pattern that eventually helps them develop independence and resilience.

5 – Do help them feel comfortable with their emotions, especially if they are particularly nervous. Tell them what they are feeling is natural, that they aren’t the only ones who feel anxious, and that they are safe. This validates what they’re feeling, ensuring them that they can come to you in the future whenever something troubles them. It says, “I hear you and I’m here for you.”

6 – Don’t say things like “If you stop crying, I’ll give you a treat” or “If you don’t stop, you won’t get to see your favorite show tonight.” Giving your child a reward or a consequence may seem like good strategies for correcting certain behaviors, but being anxious or nervous is not a behavior. It is an instinctual response to a particular situation that must be approached with support and reassurance.

7 – Do approach your child with a calming and nurturing voice and attitude. This not only helps lessen their anxieties but also reassures them of the future they are to expect. They will know what to anticipate and will come to understand that their peers are in the same boat, figuring out a new situation and learning how to grow together with support from those around them.

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