Loving Ways to Ease School Separation Anxiety

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To my surprise, my seven year old clung to me all summer. These phases happen for all kids. But, for her and other kids feeling separation anxiety, back-to-school can be worrisome. So how can we ease the discomfort of starting school?

Separation Anxiety Love Objects

Aren’t these silk hearts beautiful? I’ll be giving one to JJ to carry with her at school. When she feels the silk, she can remember I love her and she can do hard things – including school. Make your own hearts with these directions on Curly Birds’ blog.

separation anxiety

What else can you send? Small stuffed animals, toys, or blankets.

Love Notes

Tuck an encouraging note in your child’s lunch or pocket. Usually, by the time your child sees the note, he or she will be happy and won’t need it. Think of it as a way to help yourself feel better – so you don’t miss your child as much.

Need some ideas of what to write? Here are a few free lunchbox printables. For those of you with non-readers, draw a picture with a smile, a sun, or a heart.

Lunchbox Notes from It’s Written on the Wall

Bananas About You from Chiquita Moms

Paper Coterie Lunch Notes

iMom Lunchbox Notes Elementary

Love Incentives

My oldest daughter, AJ, suffered with serious anxiety which meant stomach aches and melt-downs. Her kindergarten teacher helped us by providing a reward every day if she would get ready for school without a tantrum. I loved Mrs. Rouse, she was such a great teacher! Gradually, she weaned AJ off the prize box and things got better mostly. (I’ll talk more about AJ’s anxiety issues in another post since they were way beyond separation anxiety.) Here are some incentives to help motivate your kids — these are not intended to be used forever but just for a short time.

Reward Jar Coupons

Sticker Chart (we’ve done this often for different goals.
X# stickers and the child gets a pre-determined reward)

Marble Jar

Treasure Chest

If you’re wondering the difference between rewards and bribes, I think Fairy Dust Teaching explains it well.

Love Goodbye Ritual

Sometimes a special goodbye can set a child’s expectations for handling the separation.

Make up a secret family handshake or fist bump.

Say a special family slogan. “Taylors rock! Have a great day.”

separation anxiety

P.S. First Day Tips

I think you already know what teachers recommend for a successful separation but I’ll quickly remind you just in case.

1. Kiss and go. Don’t linger – it makes it worse.
2. Talk about what will happen before it happens. (“I’m going to walk you to the line, we’ll do our goodbye, and I will leave for grocery shopping while you get to stay and have fun at school.”)
3. Be brave. I know it’s hard for us parents, too. Save your tears for the car or coffee with your friends so you don’t make things worse for your child.
4. Talk about it afterwards. (“What happened after I left? Did you go inside and get to work? Did you do cartwheels with your teacher?”)

Are you worried about separation anxiety?

What do you think will work for your child?

Books About Facing Fears and Having Courage

Anxiety Connected to Sensory Processing Disorder

Parenting Strategies to Encourage a Growth Mindsettips and strategies for kids to adopt a growth mindset

Fidget Toys for Anxiety

Movies Based on Books
books made into movies

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  1. What I found was a great way for separation anxiety was to drop by now and again just to reassure him. I would never stay long just long enough to give a assured hug or thumbs up.

  2. My daughter has issues separating too. Here is my toolbox:

    • Draw on their hand – I used to put a heart on her hand. It is my promise that I would be back later in the day

    • Give them something special of yours to hold onto (not too special that it is a train smash if they lose it)! I gave her some of my wedding ribbon. We tied it to her bag. She could look at it at any time

    • Give them a photo of you together, or as a family.
    Tie this with string and attach it to their body. Remind them that even when we aren’t together we are thinking of them, and they can look at the picture and think of us at any time (ties in nicely with the Invisible String story)

    • Put love notes or pictures in their lunchbox – I taught her the “I love you” sign
    in sign language and often put a picture of this handsign in her lunch. I also write I heart you. She loves finding them!

    • Make something special together that they can take to school e.g. necklace. We put a guardian angel on it. Put it on when you are leaving

    • Sometimes mention school or their teacher in a happy moment at home. Don’t harp, just get in and out. For example, “oh, look at the sun. It reminds me of your yellow classroom at school”. Pairing their school with a happy time helps them have positive associations. Don’t over do it, no need to mention it every
    day – they’ll be onto you!

    • Some kids do better if you get to school early and spend extra time with them before school starts – others do better with drop and go. If yours is one of those who prefers extra time be there early. Play and have fun, then leave before the bell rings so that you can say a proper goodbye . This also gives them time to cry and be settled before others are called to the carpet

    • Be the first mom there at collection time. I am not sure why – but this makes a difference!

    There are some super books out there to read to your children about separating. My favourites are:

    • The Kissing Hand
    • The Invisible String
    • Llama Llama misses Mama
    • The Kiss Box
    • I Love You All Day Long

    Good Luck