Back to School Anxiety

September 2, 2016 | Jeannette

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Daughter getting ready for school
My daughter off to preschool with her security object in hand

When I was younger, I would dread this time of the year the most. The nights were getting cooler and the CNE was coming to an end. It was time to go back to school.

I still remember vividly my first day of junior kindergarten. We received a package in the mail with my name tag. My mom explained that I would be going to school. I was so excited! I wore a grey and pink dress with a bow. My school was just across the street from our apartment. I was so excited walking into the classroom full of colourful posters on the walls. Then it hit me. My mom was not staying. I was going to be alone with a room full of kids and two adults who were strangers. I cried. A lot.

I don’t remember what happened after. But I know I cried every day for the rest of the week (or maybe longer… that part is a bit fuzzy).

My daughter will be starting senior kindergarten on Tuesday. Although she’s already had two years of school under her belt, she still has separation anxiety. Her first year of preschool consisted of crying for two months straight. Then one day, miraculously, she stopped.

Last school year was a lot better. She cried for the first three days and that was it. However, she’ll be starting at a new school on Tuesday.

The Parenting and What to Expect websites provide some helpful tips on how to deal with your child’s separation anxiety:

  • Set a sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up early and eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Practice and role play: At home, have your child pretend play as the parent while you act as the child. Go through all the motions of the first day of school.
  • Bring a security object: Put a security object in your child’s bag to remind them of home.
  • Find friendly faces: Set up a play date with a classmate before school starts.
  • Read books together: Read some books about the first day of school.
  • Keep it short but sweet: Keep the goodbyes short.

I've tried most of these things to prepare her, like role playing at home, reading books, bringing a security object (her elephant) and keeping the goodbyes short. However, I haven’t tried setting up a play date before the start of school. We will be attending a meet the teacher night and I will try to find a friend that I can introduce to her. Hopefully this will help ease her anxiety.

The library also has some great books about separation anxiety:

Calming Your Anxious Child   Helping Your Child Overcome Separation Anxiety or School Refusal   The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution   School Phobia, Panic Attacks and Anxiety in Children

Here are some children’s books to read with your child to help prepare them:

The Kissing Hand   Llama Llama Misses Mama   Mama, Don't Go   Monkey

Does your child suffer from separation anxiety? What are some of the things you've tried?