Separation Anxiety 101 (page 2)

Separation Anxiety 101

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Updated on Jul 15, 2009

How long does separation anxiety last?

Most children adjust to school and get over separation anxiety eventually, but how long this takes depends on the child. In general, kids will start to learn that their parents will come to pick them up at the end of each day, and will adjust within a couple of weeks.

"The rule of thumb is that if your child is not adjusting within a month of starting school, then you want to go to the school for help," suggests Peters Mayer. You can talk to the teacher, the school guidance counselor, and others who may be able to team up with you to help your child learn to calm himself and adjust to school.  

How can you treat separation anxiety?

Luckily, there are a number of thing parents can do to help ease and even prevent separation anxiety, including:

  • Encourage independence early. Young children, especially those who are shy and sensitive can benefit from time away from parents. Drop them off with a grandparent or a sitter, and tell them the time you'll be back. Be sure to show up when you say you will, as this is key in helping children trust that you will come back for them at the end of the school day.
  • Learn to calm yourself. Kids can read when their parents feel anxious, even when you say otherwise. Peters Mayer suggests learning how to take calming breaths and practice relaxing your face muscles in front of a mirror.
  • Explain what's happening. An analogyPeters Mayer uses to explain separation anxiety to children is a fire alarm that goes off when mom is cooking. Peters Mayer says she tells children, “There was really no fire, but the alarm doesn't know it, and when you go to school your brain says 'Hey, this is dangerous, I don't like this,' and sets off the same kind of alarm.'" Understanding what's happening to them will help children recognize their feelings rather than becoming consumed by them.
  • Teach them to calm themselves. Depending on the child, just practicing deep belly breathing can be quite soothing.  Others might benefit from carrying a small object from home in their pocket or backpack.Figure out what works best for your child, and let the teacher know so she can encourage the child to use the technique in school as well.


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