A Few Thoughts on Separation Anxiety
By: Meir Muller
As principal of a school I talk to many parents about saying goodbye at the beginning of the school year.
For children, separation anxiety is a natural part of going to school. I find that a child’s response to separation is often unique to personality and temperament. Some children easily accommodate to new situations while other children do not.
Preparing children can help them with saying goodbye. Here are some suggestions to ease your child’s anxiety:
1. Visit school before it begins. Help your child get familiar with the new surroundings.
2. Role-play about what might happen. Think of some of the possible questions your child might have before the role-play so you'll be prepared.
3. Read books about going to school like: Arthur Goes to School, Kindergarten Kids, The Kissing Hand, and Owl Babies.
4. Before you leave your child at school, be lovingly firm. Give your child a hug goodbye. Let your child know how much you love and miss him and look forward to seeing him later. You might say, “Mom loves you and will miss you today, but when I pick you up after school I’ll be so happy to see you.”
5. Allow your child to bring a picture, “lovey” or other form of comfort from home (if the center’s policy allows).
6. Once you say goodbye, avoid returning for additional goodbyes. This creates confusion and can make it more difficult for children to settle into the school routine.
7. Remember that an easy or difficult time saying goodbye is not a reflection of your bond with your child.
It’s important to remember that separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood development, for children in preschool and elementary school. Children can work through this stage with family and school support. Oftentimes, it can take up to ten school days for a child to fully settle into a new routine.
About the Author: Meir Muller has earned rabbinical ordination as well as a doctorate in philosophy in the area of early childhood education. Dr. Muller serves as a clinical assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina and is principal of the Columbia Jewish Day School.
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