Separation Anxiety

My child has separation anxiety and I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye on the first day of school.   How can I help her handle the transition to Kindergarten?

All children are different and so all will react to their first day of Kindergarten differently.  Some are ready to go without hardly a second look over their shoulder to mom.  Some are clingy and tearful.  Several weeks before Kindergarten starts, prepare your child by talking about Kindergarten. Explain the routine (dad drops off, mom picks up, daycare, etc.) and be sure to be positive. You might even want to share what you remember about your Kindergarten experience.  Don’t worry though, your child’s Kindergarten teacher will be prepared for children who have a hard time saying goodbye to mom.  

So what to do if your child is upset? I know it’s hard to see but take it from one who has been on the other side of things.   Stay calm, give a kiss goodbye, a few reassuring words and then leave.  Hanging around or trying to sneak out when your child isn’t watching will only make the situation escalate.   Call the teacher later that day to check on your child.  You will probably also want to wait until your child is settled into the routine before going up during the day to have lunch with them. 

Develop a goodbye routine. Children thrive on the predictability of routines. Have something short and simple that you do to say goodbye, a special saying, a kiss, a hug, etc. You might also consider putting a family photo in your child’s backpack or lunchbox so they can be reminded at some point that they will soon see their family that loves them.

Picture Books. A few weeks before Kindergarten read books about the first day of school.  Also consider reading books that deal with saying goodbye like The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

Be calm yourself. Even if you are nervous about your child’s first day of school, don’t let your child notice. At the school where I taught Kindergarten they had something called the Boo Hoo Breakfast. After dropping off their children at school, all Kindergarten mothers met in the cafeteria to console each other. If your school doesn’t have something like this, organize one yourself, call your mom on the way to work, have coffee with your friends at Starbucks or have lunch with your husband. Just don’t let your child think there is a reason to be nervous.  Children read your emotions well so be careful.

Most of all, be patient!   Your child won’t be tearful everyday of their Kindergarten year.  Soon she’ll giving you a quick kiss goodbye and skipping into the classroom! 

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