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Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

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Updated on Jul 14, 2009

Your first four years together have been heaven-sent. From his first step to his first complete sentence, you’ve been on-hand championing your son’s growth and development. Now it’s time to pass the torch to his preschool teacher. You’re excited and ready; he’s balking and stubborn. Is separation anxiety turning your little angel into a little devil?

Separation anxiety is a normal part of growing up, reports Dr. Alan Greene, pediatrician at the Stanford School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California. While peak separation distress usually occurs between 6-12 months, some little ones will wait until school days loom before letting loose with their worries and fears. Dr. Greene suggests staying calm as your best line of defense against full blown anxiety attacks that disrupt and delay the joys that await your child.

When separation anxiety grips your little guy, firm actions and words go a long way toward calming his nervous jitters. Here’s how you can take charge:

Dawdle before departure. Walk your little scholar to the schoolroom door and chat a bit with the teacher or other parents. Include your child in the interaction, especially if schoolmates are present. After a few minutes, prepare for departure.

Bid a short and sweet farewell. When the time has come to leave, say goodbye. Blow kisses, wave, and gently close the door behind you.

Ooze confidence. Do you feel anxiety when it's time to separate? If so, your child will sense it and attempt to cling. Stand firm. Briefly explain the agenda: I’m going to the market and you’re going to school. I’ll be back to pick you up in three hours. If the tone of your voice and the smile on your face are authentic, he’ll get the picture.

Create familiar routines. If your child knows what to expect, his confidence will grow. Keep school morning rituals the same. Drive the same route; arrive at the same time. Continue to dawdle a bit at the door, if necessary.

Many happy returns. Don’t be surprised if one day soon your child doesn’t even notice you’ve left the building. He’s having way too much fun exploring his world and playing with his little colleagues. When the school bell rings and class is dismissed, always demonstrate how happy you are to see him again. Kisses, hugs and plenty of sweet talk are always in order.

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