Separation Anxiety in Preschoolers and Elementary School Children and Their Parents
The faces were pressed against the glass, hoping to sneak a peek at their little one. It was the first day of kindergarten and a number of parents had come to school to watch the children begin the day. As a new teacher, one without children of my own, my initial thought was, “It’s half a day. The kids will be home soon. What’s the big deal?”
Years later, I put my first born on the bus. I couldn’t speak because of the lump in my throat. I was sure he would have a good day. His teacher was a very capable, well-educated woman. He was in good hands. I remember the bus driver just smiled and nodded.
We’ve all been a witness to or experienced separation anxiety first hand. Anxiety happens to both parents and children. Separation anxiety can strike the young child on his way to preschool for the first time as well as the older child on the first day of middle school or even high school. Being separated from what is known and comfortable can be difficult. Some children say goodbye and hop right onto the bus without a backward glance. Others have a hard time leaving the protective arms of the parent. Sometimes it is the parent who has a hard time letting go. Just remember, God has entrusted your little one to you to raise for Him. Be encouraged that your child is growing and moving to the next stage of development.
Here are a few tips to ease the transition to preschool and elementary school. Each tip is to help both the parent and the child feel more comfortable and less anxious.
• Begin with prayer. Pray for a smooth transition for you and your child.
• Visit the school prior to the first day. Check out the playground. Roam the halls. Try opening and closing the lockers.
• Meet the teacher(s) before school actually starts.
• Walk the path from the bus or car drop off area to the classroom. Note landmarks so your child can easily find his way.
• Read children’s books about going to school.
• Give your child something to love from home; a small piece of his blanket, a stuffed animal he can keep in his locker or cubby. Try spritzing the item lightly with Mom’s perfume or Dad’s cologne.
• Send a photograph of your family in a plastic bag.
• Everyday, tell your child, “I love you. I’ll always come back for you.” Then always be on time at school or the bus stop.
• Ask the teacher who your child plays with at school. Arrange for a play date outside of class to encourage the friendship.
• Tell the teacher what activities your child enjoys. If he likes art, the art station can be open when he arrives to aid in a smooth transition.
• Avoid the temptation to show up at the classroom prior to the end of the school day. Rather send a message that tells your child he is capable.
• Laugh with your child! It’s hard to be anxious in the middle of a belly laugh.
The bond between a parents and children is strong. You’ve instilled great love between the two of you. Rejoice!
Join me next week for tips on how to manage the transition in middle school and high school children.
God bless you!