Separation AnxietyFor those who are going to school for the first time, parents may have to deal with their child’s  separation anxiety.  Is this normal?  Parents would ask worriedly.

It is quite natural for children to cry, whine, and cling to their parents during the first few days of school.  Being placed in a new environment with unfamiliar faces can be stressing for children esp. those who tend to be shy.

Though it may be hard for some parents not to give in to their child’s heart-wrenching wails, it is important that you make your child understand that you cannot be with him all the time. Here’s what you can do to bring down stress levels both for you and your child.

  • Prepare your child for the separation. Plant suggestions during breakfast or bedtime when you tell the child in an encouraging manner, “While you go to school, mommy will be in the office working.”  Help her cope by believing in her,  “I know you’re such a big girl and that you’ll be fine in school while I go to work.”
  • Tell your child what you will be doing while you’re gone. Telling your child what you will be doing reassures him that you are not leaving because you don’t want to be with him anymore, but because you need to get some things done.  Don’t lie.  I’ve observed parents who lie to their children saying they will just be outside of the classroom.  If the child finds out that the parent is lying, the following day, the child will not refuse to let them out of his sight.
  • Describe to your child what he will be doing in school in your absence. Tell him the exciting things that she can do in school.  Show him pictures of children playing, reading and being with other kids.
  • Reassure your child that you will be coming back. Always tell him that you will be returning – and prove to him that he can trust what you say by coming back when you said you would. And never, under any circumstance, threaten to leave your child when he “misbehaves.” This will make him more fearful, and he will cling to you even more.
  • Prepare yourself. Children will adjust in varying degrees.  Remember that the crying will only subside once your child learns  that he can survive without you for a couple of hours. Don’t be frustrated or worse punish your child for clinging; firmly encourage and reassure him instead. Holding, embracing, or babying him while telling him to go inside the classroom by himself may confuse him about whether he should stay or go, so be firm. Make sure you’re not the one with the separation anxiety.
  • Praise your child the moment he’s separated. Say, “I’m so proud of you for being such a big boy in school” to make your child feel proud of his “accomplishment.”
  • Pick the right school. Children with separation anxiety need a warm environment where they can learn that the world is not as scary as they fear. It helps if the school has friendly teachers who will put them at ease. Also, make sure the school that the school curriculum includes plenty of fun activities.
By:  Susan Ng Yu
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