How to Address Separation Anxiety at the Start of a New School Year

Starting a new school year can either be a pleasant experience or a stressful one depending on how well your child is emotionally prepared for it. Some children will be excited about venturing outside of the house and making new friends, while others will show signs of separation anxiety.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety disorder is a condition that causes a child or adolescent extreme distress when he or she is separated from their parents.

Separation anxiety happens when a child either feels the threat of separation or is actually separated from his or her  parents. It’s common in young children, especially those between 8 and 14 months old; however it can extend to children over six years of age, if not addressed early on.

Your child may experience separation anxiety at the start of the school year if he or she displays the following symptoms:

  • An unrealistic and lasting worry that something bad will happen to the parent if the child leaves
  • An unrealistic and lasting worry that something bad will happen to the child if he or she leaves the parent
  • Refusal to go to school in order to stay with the parent
  • Refusal to go to sleep without the caregiver being nearby
  • Inability to sleep away from home
  • Fear of being alone
  • Nightmares about being separated
  • Bed wetting
  • Complaints of physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches, on school days
  • Repeated temper tantrums or pleading to stay with the parent

If you’ve noticed any of these behaviors in your child, there are ways in which the transition from home to school can be made much easier for your child.

1. Visit the School Before the First Day

Since separation anxiety revolves around the fear of the unknown, it would be helpful for your child to visit the school before opening day. This will help your child familiarize him or herself  with the new surroundings and reduce any fears about it being a scary place.

2. Read Books About Going to School

Books like, Arthur Goes to School, Kindergarten Kids, The Kissing Hand, and Owl Babies, are perfect examples of stories that will help prepare your child for what to expect on his or her first day of school.

Another method for reducing anxiety includes creating a homemade book that outlines your child’s daily routine after making the transition to school. This could promote coping in children who need to rehearse the day’s plan in order to feel comfortable.

3. Establish a Goodbye Routine

When the moment comes to leave your child at school it’s important to be both loving and firm. There are many positive ways to approach this scenario. Some parents prefer to give a hug goodbye while others wave at their children from the window. Either way, being consistent in your farewell can only benefit your child. Any change in the routine, such as going back for a second time to say goodbye to your child, could prompt your child to feel anxious.

4. Provide Your Child with Reminders of Home

Reminders of home can range from a lovey to their favorite toy. Easily transportable items such as these can bring familiarity to a new classroom, and give your child a comforting item to relieve any anxiety he or she may experience.

5. Have Consistent Timing

When the end of the day comes and it’s time to pick up your child from school, it’s important that you arrive there at the same time as you have on previous days. This prevents your child from worrying about whether you’ve forgotten him or her. It also makes drop off easier the next day, because then your child will begin to trust that you will not leave him or her alone at the school forever.

At Centner Academy, we strive to nurture children through the appropriate emotional, intellectual, social and physical growth that occurs from ages 2 ½ to 18. We want to ensure that your child enjoys attending our school and will do our best to alleviate any discomfort he or she may be feeling when embarking on an educational journey with us.

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