Tips on Handling Separation Anxiety
Many children experience separation anxiety at the start of a new school year. This is normal and considered healthy. It is a developmental step that parents and caregivers simply have to work through. Your child is realizing that they are seperate from their parents.
A child may show his distress by becoming apprehensive about entering a new setting, refusing to make eye contact, clinging to a parent, throwing a temper tantrum, or having trouble sleeping and experiencing nightmares. Some additional factors that may contribute to this behavior include: tiredness, illness, changes in household routine, changes in the family structure.
If separation anxiety occurs here are some tips to try:
- Recognize how you are feeling. Are you tense or apprehensive? Your child can sense your feelings about leaving him or her. Try to project a positive attitude.
- Talk with your child about what to expect during their school day. Talk about the activities they will engage in, and fun they will have playing with new toys. Include the time that mom or dad will be returning (after snack time), etc. The unknown is most frightening and can contribute to unwanted reactions.
- Allow the child to bring something special into the classroom that may help alleviate his or her fears. This could be a special stuffed animal, blanket, Lego block, favorite stone for their pocket, or picture of the family.
- Be sure not to bribe or reward your child with a special activity, but feel free to talk about something special they an look forward to after school. (i.e. walk to the park, going to the library, etc.)
- As tough as it may be, don't prolong the good-byes. Make a ritual such as two "bear" hugs and one "monkey" smooch. Then say good-bye and mean good-bye.
- Lastly, at the end of the school day, ask the teacher if you can take a "happy walk" with your child. Ask your child to show you the things in the classroom that make him or her happy. Familiarize yourself with the surroundings and talk about all the fun things in the classroom. This may give your child something to look forward to next time he or she goes to class.
Reprinted with the permission of the Exceptional Children's Assistance Center.
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