Summer is winding down, and if you have a child, you’re probably thinking about stocking up on school supplies, back-to-school shopping, and making sure they have everything they need for a successful school year ahead.
But, what if your child tends to struggle with separation anxiety? No amount of school supplies in the world can prepare you (or them) for that.
Maybe they’ve already returned to the classroom and they’re struggling with being away from you during the day. That can feel overwhelming as a parent and you might find yourself at a loss for what to do.
Thankfully, there are strategies you can put into place to help your child with separation anxiety as they return to school. Let’s cover a few solutions that can help.
Talk About It
If your child hasn’t started school yet, talk to them about what to expect this year. If they have questions, do your best to answer them while providing reassurance that everything will be okay.
Often, anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown. When your child has a better idea of what they’ll be walking into, they’ll feel more confident and comfortable.
If talking doesn’t do the trick, consider taking them on a “trial run.” Most teachers are more than happy to meet students ahead of time, take them through the building and classrooms, and give them a bit of insight into what a typical day of class will look like. Plus, if your child is comfortable and familiar with their new teacher, they’ll likely feel safer on the first day.
Don’t Dismiss Their Feelings
You might know there’s nothing for your child to worry about when it comes to returning to school. But, that doesn’t make their feelings invalid.
Make sure they understand that you know they’re anxious and that it’s okay to be nervous. Provide reassurance as much as possible, but don’t try to talk them out of their feelings or dismiss them as “silly” or unnecessary. Your child needs to feel supported. The more understood they feel, the more secure they’ll be.
Create a Routine
Everyone thrives on routine, but it’s especially necessary for kids. It’s a good rule of thumb to develop a routine that will work throughout the school year to provide a sense of comfort and stability for your child.
Start a few weeks before the first school day. Wake your child up at the same time each day and go through a morning routine they can depend on. That might include things like having a healthy breakfast, reading or getting in some kind of physical activity, or just talking about the day ahead.
This kind of routine can give your child a “constant” to look forward to, especially when there are so many uncertainties to face during a typical school day.
It’s also important to have a routine in the evening. Your child needs to know that every day, you’ll be there. That kind of consistency will help to reduce the fear they might be feeling from having to separate from you each day. Spending some one-on-one time with your child every evening is a great way to ease anxiety.
Don’t Expect Immediate Change
Don’t let yourself get frustrated or feel like you’re somehow failing if your child is still struggling with separation anxiety a few weeks into the school year. Work with their teachers and school administration as much as possible to create a cohesive plan that will help and comfort your child. Keep a routine at home.
Most importantly, provide reassurance that they’ll be safe at school, and that you’ll continue to be there for them every day. When you’re okay with taking things slowly, you’re more likely to see success.