What can parents do to manage their own separation anxiety and also help with their child’s anxiety?
For moms and dads here’s some advice:
•Distract yourself on the first few days of school when it’s the hardest and try to remember that all children have to grow up and go to school.
•Practice visualizing your child going off to school and see him or her smiling and you smiling and waving good bye as you get into your car.
•Do some reading about how difficult it is for parents who have adult kids who are not independent to get a reality check on how difficult it is as a child gets older to create independence and separation if you don’t start young.
•Keep your anxiety under the radar, if you’re worried that your child will have a difficult transition, keep it to yourself, if she thinks you’re nervous, she will be too.
•Remember that you transitioned to school as a child and now you an adult and your child will as well
•Talk to your friends and get support, but acknowledge that your fears are irrational, although important, they are not based in reality, and in reality your child will be fine going off to school.
•Realize that setting up the best plan for your child’s transition is all you can do and follow the steps below to do that.
To help your children, (and help yourself) follow these steps:
•Start counting down the days on a calendar two to three weeks before school starts, but don’t overdo it. Kids need to know when they will be going to school, without over focusing on it which could heighten anxiety.
•Start practicing with fun, fun, fun pretend school activities, so they know what to expect and to give your child a sneak peek at a great school day. Practice saying goodbye, calling on her the way the teacher will, and having snack time.
•Have your child meet some classmates in advance at a local playground, where she can begin to know others and play at a neutral place where she is comfortable and enjoys.
•Attend the pre-school orientation so she gets the lay of the land and meets the teacher; knowing who they are going to be with and what the class is like, will give her an image to guide her and help her anxiety regarding uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
•Know the school routine, be on time for drop off and pick up; even if you are not anxious by nature, rushing because of poor planning will only increase everyone’s anxiety on the big day!
•Pack something familiar and comforting in his backpack as a reminder of home and that you are thinking of him, but don’t mention it in advance. Don’t give items that make him feel younger like stuffies.
•Make the goodbye a matter of fact, non issue; like you’ll see him in an hour, the less you hype about it, the less he will.
•Leave once he’s with his class or assigned person; the more you hang, the harder it is for him to separate. So therefore plan to leave as fast as you can and if necessary plan for having to be somewhere else.
•Don’t overdo the welcome home or pick up; nonchalant, matter of fact is the best for addressing anxiety in kids.