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. Kindergarten for has been tough for my little one. I gave him a laminated picture of us together because he said he missed me. That really helped get him through the first week. We also spend some special time together each day when he gets home. We are not over it completely, but he is definitely making progress.

  2. I used to write an elaborate note every day for my middle daughter when she was in preschool. I just found an old one — it had a picture, message and alphabet around the edges like a frame. It really did help her not to cry at school.

  3. Hello, thanks for featuring our lunchbox notes. (It’s Written on the Wall) You’ve put our picture twice on the post. One for us and one for Paper Coterie. I’m sure they would love to have their photo instead of ours. If you wouldn’t mind changing that…Thanks