How to Manage Separation Anxiety

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Employ these strategies to get rid of school separation anxiety, help your child relax and, believe it or not, learn to look forward to going to school every day.

Here's How:

1. Say goodbye. The simplest of the steps, it's also the hardest to do. But do it you must. Give your child a hug and a kiss, tell him/her you'll be back soon and then walk out the door. Don't delay, don't give him/her "one more minute," don't linger, hoping that he/she'll miraculously start smiling and laughing, happy to go and play with his/her chums. You've brought him/her to school and now it's time to let him/her get to the business of being a student.

2. Trust your child's teacher. Teachers know kids. They've done this before and have many ways and methods in their bag of tricks to help calm your little one down. From redirecting to a new activity to simply giving your child a hug and offering comfort, teachers are masters at knowing what works and what doesn't when it comes to making kids happy.

3. Establish a good-bye routine. Children crave routine. By giving your child something he/she can count on, he/she's likely to go to school that much more willingly. So come up with a couple of things that you do each time you say goodbye. Maybe it's a secret handshake or a special high-five. Maybe you kiss his/her chin or tweak his/her nose. Whatever it is, make it something special between the two of you and make sure you do it every single time.

4. Confront the problem head-on. Bribing your child to stay in school may work -- temporarily. Sneaking out might make you feel better because you don't have to witness a meltdown. But the best way to cope with separation anxiety is to just deal with it. The reality is, that within minutes of their parents' exit, most kids happily settle down and forget what all the fuss was about. And within days (sometimes weeks), the tearful goodbyes end. This is something the two of you must work through the right way -- together.

5. Try a change. It's a reality of parenthood. Kids often behave better for people other than their parents. If there's a relative, friend or neighbor that's game, let them handle the dropping off for a few days and see if there is a change in your child's behavior.

6. Enlist the help of home. The most important message to send your child is that you love them very much and that you are thinking of them often. Together, pick out something that your child can bring to school with them that reminds them of home -- a photo attached to his/her clipboard or a smiley face drawn on their hand. It just needs to be something they can look at that will conjure up thoughts of you that also offers comfort.

7. Never let them see you sweat. Don't let your child see that their separation anxiety is getting to you. Of course this is hard on you, but you must never let your child see that. Smile, talk about how much fun he/she's gong to have and then once you are out the door, call a friend to vent and cry.

8. Don't be late for pick up. It's easy to get lose track of time when you have a few hours to yourself, whether you are running errands, working or simply taking some time to relax. But no matter who is picking your child up, whether it is you or someone else, make sure you are there on time -- early even. If you are late, it can cause your child even more anxiety and make dropping her off the next time that much harder.

9. Get the teacher involved. You probably have plenty of questions and could use some wise words from someone who has done this before. Your child's teacher is likely an expert in separation anxiety and probably has a lot to offer in terms of dealing with your child specifically. Make an appointment when you can talk to her, if possible without your child present. And while it's tempting to try to corner her during drop-off and/or pick-up time, it's best to wait until she has time to focus solely on you, allowing her to gather her thoughts and prepare herself.

10. Be prepared for regression. Just when you think you finally have separation anxiety under control, along comes a school vacation or an illness that keeps your child home for a few days and -- tah-dah! -- it's back again. This is perfectly normal. While upsetting, it's likely just to last a day or two and your child should go back to his cheerful self at drop-off time quickly.

11. Give your child something to look forward to. Most grown-ups aren't thrilled with the idea of being left in a roomful of people they don't know. If it's possible, put some friendly faces in the crowd by scheduling playdates with some of your child's classmates. If your child arrives at school and sees someone they recognize, they may be more likely to settle down and relax.

12. Be honest. Talk to your child about what they are feeling and why. Ask them what makes them so upset about you dropping them off at school. Share a story about a time that you may have felt scared or nervous about something and how you dealt with it. Talk about why you want your child to go to school and how much fun they are going to have while they were there. Don't minimize their fears or concerns -- address them while assuring them that you will always be there to pick them up once school is over for the day.

13. Help your child do his homework. Before school even starts, talk to your child about the whole process, preparing him/her for what he/she can expect to happen. Read a few books about what school will be like and what he/she will do there. Knowledge is power and the more information your child has, the more empowered he/she's likely to feel.

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