Most children experience some sort of excitement or anticipation as the first day of school approaches. But for children who struggle with separation anxiety, this day can be dreadful for both of you! Children with separation anxiety battle extreme distress when leaving their primary caretaker—so much so that it may get in the way of normal activities, including the ability to engage in school. If you’re child clings to your leg, complains of unreal physical illness, and simply refuses to go to school, she may need a little extra attention within the first few weeks back in the classroom.
Here are some tips for dropping off your nervous little one on the first day back:
- Organize your home for back-to-school – set up a homework area, pack lunches the night before, and allow your child to help shop for back-to-school supplies.
- Explain beforehand your drop-off procedure so she is completely aware of what will happen. And then tell her when you’ll be back, and from where you’ll be picking her up.
- Involve your child’s class teacher in the process as she will be left with your crying child.
- Don’t hang around at school or prolong the goodbyes. You may need to run through the pick-up process again.
- Make sure she gets enough sleep and eats a nutritious breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A healthy diet will positively impact a child’s mood and brain function throughout the day.
- Never sneak out – we repeat…never sneak out! Make sure she knows you’ve left.
- Try to appear relaxed with a happy or calm expression. Children often feed off of the responses of their actions, keep your voice calm and act as if the situation is not a big ordeal.
- Set up a reward chart in which your child works towards something special, putting a sticker on each day she separates from you without too much trouble.
If your child’s anxiety continues throughout the year, you many need to look into the possibility of a deeper rooted issue such as an anxiety disorder or bullying. You may need to speak with your child’s teacher or guidance counselor. Try to keep yourself calm during the back-to-school season and know that once a routine is established, things will settle back down!