Back to school: Dealing with separation anxiety

Although many children settle straight in, the start of school can cause some children to regress into some separation anxiety. This can result in tears and clinging as you try to leave at school. Separation anxiety is children’s normal fear of being away from their parents or carers. This can start at around 8 months, usually peaking at around 14-18 months and gradually diminishing throughout early childhood. If you feel that your child might feel anxiety at being separated there are tips to help overcome this for the day. 

Top tips  

  • Make sure your child knows that you will be back, waiting outside when they finish (or whoever is picking them up).
  • Most children don’t cry for as long as you imagine. They often stop when you leave and in most cases end up being fine. 
  • Say goodbye and leave when it is time to go. Lingering can make it more difficult for your child to part with you and get on with their day.
  • Try distraction. Go into the class and engage your child in an enjoyable activity before you leave.
  • Know that if there is a problem the school will contact you. 

When separation anxiety is a problem 

Some children experience separation anxiety that doesn’t go away, even with best efforts. If intense separation anxiety continues for months rather than days, it may be a sign that more support is needed. 

If separation anxiety continues and is excessive enough to interfere with normal activities like school and friendships, it may be a sign of a larger problem: separation anxiety disorder. 

If you’re worried about your child’s separation anxiety speak to your child’s teacher at preschool or school and work through the situation together. 

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