new clothes and packing lunches are buzz words this time of year, but to a
parent it can bring thoughts of worry and concern over their little one.
Beginning school for children is a time of excitement and anxiety. Minor
separation anxiety is normal. We witnessed normal child anxiety when a stranger
would reach out to our 8 month old babies. We witnessed it again until the
child was about two whenever we had to drop our child off somewhere new. Mild
separation anxiety is a normal passage for both mom and children, and we all
experience it in a way when our kids go off to college.
small children there are several factors that influence separation anxiety,
including a child's temperament, as well as how well he/she reunites with
parents and teachers. How the parent responds is very important, because a
parent's behavior is what many children react to.
a parent can help a small child minimize separation anxiety:
- Develop a routine. Children feel safe when they can
count on what will happen. A routine that is the same each day helps children
predict and adds structure to their life. They know when mommy or daddy leave
they will come back.
- Don't be late. Talk to your child for several days preparing
them for their day. When you leave them, tell them after nap time or whatever
the schedule is, I will be there. Then be sure you are there. If for some
reason you have a conflict and cannot pick them up, tell them who will and what
they can expect. This helps your child feel secure and in control.
- Stay positive. If you act worried, concerned or weepy,
your child will follow your emotion. Be upbeat about the activities and meeting
new friends. Whatever the child enjoys, make sure you promote that activity as
much as you can.
- Follow the instructor's rules. Your child will form a
relationship with their teacher and whatever the teacher says is your child's
truth. You may know more about a topic than your child's teacher, but they will
correct you if your story doesn't match their teacher. If your child's teacher
has a rule, respect it as much as possible at home as well. An example is not
allowing certain words to be said. No matter what the word is, if it is
negative at school, do not say the word at home.
- Know and promote your child's school friends to meet
outside of school. Helping your child build friendships will help ease their
school anxiety. If you know someone in the class, inviting that child over with
their parent prior to school will help your child adjust more easily.
- Develop a bedtime routine at least two weeks prior to
the school year beginning. This will help your child feel more rested.
- Let your child help you pack their snack, lunch and backpack
for school with necessary items for the first day of school. This list is
usually sent to parents prior to the first day of school.
- When your child is making a new transition, such as
beginning school or starting a new grade in school, talking about it, reading
stories about school, and watching cartoons about the subject matter helps
alleviate worry and fear about the unknown. A parent's goal should be to help
their child feel confident that they will be well cared for.
Helping teens and tweens minimize back to school anxiety
involves being there emotionally and physically if they need to talk, but also
allowing them time to explore healthy coping mechanisms on their own. Parents
who structure a healthy school environment for their child are mentoring the
importance of education in their family. Below are suggestions that can also
to school have a schedule of when phones and computers will be turned off for
the night. Kids need a structured routine and bedtime just as small children
transportation, who will take who where, and if your child is driving, make
sure you are clear about the route they will take, and who will be with them.
child should be responsible enough to do their own laundry, clean their own
room and have their clothes ready for school each day. Doing too much for your
child, or what they are capable of doing on their own is a no-no.
your child's classes and which teacher your child has for each class. Attending
the open house night prior to classes beginning is very helpful for children
and their parents.
to your child prior to the semester about which classes may require additional
tutoring is helpful. Your child can plan their after school activities easier
and with less stress if they know you are supportive with them getting
additional help if they need it. Anxiety is the worry of what will happen prior
to it ever happening. The more parents can help alleviate the worry, the
goes a long way! Kids need to know you are on their team, with things they
As your child heads off to college you may think your days of
worrying about separation anxiety are over. Just the opposite is true. When
kids leave home it's a transition for the child as well as the parents. Every
parent feels somewhat emotional when they drive away and leave their child
behind to begin a new life on campus. Whether you have looked forward to this
day or dreaded it, it will happen, and preparing your child as well as yourself
will minimize your anxiety. These few suggestions will help first time parents.
much as possible reassure your child that they will do great and that college
is a wonderful experience.
you let your child off on campus this is not time to insist on hugging, kissing
or making a scene. Many kids aren't comfortable with public displays of
affection, so writing a letter of how you feel about your child and leaving it
somewhere where they can read it in private will be appreciated by them.
your child or communicate with them in the same manner you did in high school,
but let them set the pace.
a bi-monthly or monthly family meal where your child will come home and
reunite. For families that live far away Facetime or Skyping are wonderful ways
your child when they are concerned or worried that you are near, and that you
have every confidence they can handle the situation.
Separation is part of life, and learning how to separate from
the ones you love most is a lifetime lesson. If your child has difficulty, it
will usually pass, but when it doubt, speaking to a counselor is always
helpful. Reminding your child that mistakes are learning tools and that we all
make them, helps lesson their anxiety with trying to be perfect in their new
surroundings. Most children I talk with tell me the one thing mom and dad gave
them that pulled them through many anxious transitions was the fact that they
could always go home. Kids need to know their family will always be their home
no matter where that home (geographically) is. –Mary Jo Rapini
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