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Going to School

Separation Anxiety: Letting Your Child Go

separationMany loving parents get anxious sending their children off to school. The strategies below are designed to help you let your child go. Keep in mind that the more secure you feel, the more confident your child may be.

Look around the classroom. If you drop your child off in the classroom, look around to see what is changing every day. What’s new on the walls? Which books are in the book corner? Noticing the details may help you reconnect with your child later and talk about them together.

Talk about school at home. Specific questions might get your kids talking. “What was the best part of the story your teacher read today?””What’s it like to be line leader?””What did you do on the playground?” You don’t need to be there to learn about what your child does at school. Discuss what the teacher writes in the newsletter. When your child brings home work, comment on it with specifics. However, don’t be surprised if your older child doesn’t always want to talk much.

Acknowledge your own separation pangs. Parents worry when their kids start school. “They worry if the teachers will really know how to care for their child. They feel loss because this may be the first time their child is away from home this long. They may also feel loss because they work full time and can’t be there — at school — to help their child adjust in person. They may feel guilty if they have to leave a crying child at school and go off to work. But they too can find ways to work things through by talking with a friend, their partner, and the school guidance counselor, if needed,” advises Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., author of “Playful Parenting.”

Understand your role in the separation process. “Your separation issues could be feeding your child’s,” reminds Diane Levin, Ph.D. “If you are having trouble separating, your child will always pick this up. One way you can help you both feel better is by developing a trusting relationship with the teacher.”

Remember what school was like for you. “What you think school will be like for your child is likely based on what school was like for you. It’s therefore important to recognize that your child may have a very different experience than you did.”

“The key is to separate your own feelings about school from your childhood, so your kids can have a fresh start. You may have had a horrible experience (which can make you over-worry about your kids) or a wonderful experience (which could make you insensitive to places where your kids may be having a hard time. That’s why thinking about and separating out your own experience is so important,” advises Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D.

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