Back to school time always bring a new wave of first day tears, resistance, and fears… and that’s just the parents (mostly kidding!). I wanted to put together some information for my incoming Kindergarten parents to help ease the transition into the school setting for all involved. Below you’ll find 8 tips for parents to help kids with separation anxiety at school.
Help Kids with Separation Anxiety at School
1 – Make and Practice a Goodbye Ritual
Plan how you and your child will say goodbye. Maybe it’s a big hug followed by a high five. Maybe it’s a quick secret handshake. Practice your goodbye ritual for brief separations, like when your child spends the afternoon with an aunt or goes to a dropoff playdate so that the ritual is familiar when it’s time for school.
2 – Do a Practice Run
If possible, participate in school functions to prepare for that first day. Send your student to half-day transition opportunities if they’re available. If you can make it to Open House events, make the walk to the classroom to gain comfort with the building. If not, make the walk or drive to school so that your child can see what the drop off will look like.
3 – Read about It
Pick up some books to talk about the feeling surrounding separation. Llama Llama Misses Mama is a great story that illustrates some of the worries and panic associated with separation.
The Kissing Hand provides a sweet strategy for families to use to help kids with separation anxiety. A kiss on the palm and a palm to the heart can remind kids that families love them even when they are apart!
4 – Stick to a RoutineRegular bedtime routines?
Important. Predictable morning routine? Super important. Stick to a routine to give your child a comfortable schedule leading up to school. Make sure your child is on time for school so they can participate in morning routines too. Missing morning structure or instructions can leave your child feeling lost and more anxious. Finally, fill your child in on the daily schedule. Let them know when they can expect to see you again.
5 – Pack a Transitional Object
Pack a small, familiar object to help ease the transition. Tuck a family photo in your child’s backpack or small pocket heart in your child’s pocket as a reminder that they’re still loved and connected, even when you’re apart.
6 – Show Excitement
When you talk about school and the changes ahead, show your child that you’re excited! Instead of focusing on the separation with statements like, “I’m really going to miss you while you’re at school,” say things like, “It’s going to be so cool to get to do science experiments at school!” or “I can’t wait to hear about all the things you learn!” to let your child know that school experiences will be exciting and fun.
7 – Validate Feelings
If your child expresses some sadness or worry about going to school, validate their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel that way. Redirect the conversation to things they can do if they feel worried at school, like grounding strategies or looking at that transitional item.
8 – Model a Positive Goodbye
Finally, when it’s time to say goodbye, do your goodbye ritual and then model a positive goodbye. Give your child a big smile with a confident posture, tell them you can’t wait to hear about their day, and then head out! Your child will pick up on your positive energy!
Give your child a big smile with a confident posture, tell them you can’t wait to hear about their day, and then head out!