How can I help my child with separation anxiety?
In this post we'll share some separation anxiety tips for kids that we've found helpful!
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a perfectly normal part of childhood development where kids get agitated or upset when a parent or caregiver leaves them with someone else.
Kids Health shares that certain life stresses can also trigger feelings of anxiety about being separated from a parent: a new childcare situation or caregiver, a new sibling, moving to a new place, or tension at home.
In my experience, even returning back to school or childcare after a fun vacation with a lot of together time can trigger separation anxiety for a short period of time until kids get back into their routine.
12 Separation Anxiety Tips for Kids
Going to school for the first time or going back after a fun summer or winter break can be tough for kids.
Here are a few ideas that have helped us as our kids have dealt with separation anxiety:
1) Set up a playdate with a friend from school to help kids connect and get more excited about the people they'll see at school.
2) Change the focus- give your child a job for when they go to school. Bring a new book to the teacher, make a special card for the teacher or someone at school, bring stickers to share with the class. You can even give your child a specific challenge to accomplish during the day and have them report back to you after school (swing 3 times on the swings, smile at 2 people, etc).
3) Have your child work with you to plan a special lunch/snack to bring to school that they'll be excited about. Put a note inside from you.
4) Make a fun plan or special date for after school for them to look forward to. We love planning Cookie Chats for each Friday.
5) Create a simple routine for the day (or get back to an old routine). Add in a visual schedule to help them know what to expect and that you'll be there to pick them up!
6) Read positive or funny books about going to school. Here are some of our favorite books about school.
7) Go over and play at the playground at school. Drive by and say hi to the school when you're nearby it.
8) Listen to your child's worries. Acknowledge them and let them know that you're listening and there to help them. See if there are any things you and the teacher can help with.
9) Establish a consistent goodbye plan with a hug or wave and confidently say goodbye and leave.
10) Create a simple goodbye ritual like a fun handshake or hug to make saying goodbye fun and less stressful.
11) Make sure kids get to bed on time or early, especially for those first few weeks back at school.
12) Follow these simple After School Tips the first week or two at school (or back from a break).
These feelings of separation anxiety won't last forever and are perfectly normal. They can be exhausting for you as a parent though, so make sure you take care of yourself too!
Other Separation Anxiety Resources
Here are some additional separation anxiety resources that we've found helpful!
- Helping Kids Cope with Separation Anxiety
- Managing Your Own Separation Anxiety
- Separation Anxiety Tips for Toddlers
Note: Sometimes kids experience a harder time with separation than is typical. Work with your child's teacher /childcare provider and possibly a school counselor or mental health professional if their anxiety lasts longer than a few weeks and seems to be extreme or you need additional tools.
Do you have any separation anxiety tips for kids that have worked for your family?
Please share your tips in the comments so that other families can benefit from your experience.