Clingy Child: What to Do When Your Kid is Suffering Separation Anxiety

sad son hugging his mother
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The first day of school is never easy on kids, especially the younger ones, the first timers. Your child may cling hard to you, throw a tantrum, or push away teachers so you won’t leave them. As much as this is a terrible experience for both of you, believe it or not, it’s only natural for kids to behave this way. Remember, this is a totally new experience for them. From being with you all day for years and then one day, being far from you, placed in a different environment with different people, there’s really no surprise that they’re experiencing some real, hardcore anxiety. But while separation anxiety is understandable, that doesn’t make it easy to deal with. If school time has become a bitter, dreadful time for your child, here’s how to make it a little less terrible:

Give them a comfort object.

As mentioned, the reason kids get separation anxiety is school isn’t familiar to them. You are what’s familiar to them, and the fact that you’re going away adds to their feeling of uneasiness. The good news is, even if you can’t be with them, you can leave them with something familiar. Like for example, their tiny toy or favorite hanky. Psychologists call these security/comfort objects. When kids hold on to this stuff, it puts them at ease, making the transition to school a lot less difficult. Over time, as your child becomes more familiar with the daily grind at the daycare, Salt Lake City-based psychologists say that your child will eventually outgrow the need for comfort objects.

Say a proper goodbye

father dropping off her daughter to school

One of the worst mistakes you can do when easing separation anxiety is not giving your child a proper goodbye. Parents neglect this part because they fear that their son or daughter will be all the more upset. But the fact is, when you don’t say goodbye, they will expect that you’ll stay (or at least be begged to stay) further. And so, the bargaining and throwing of tantrums begin. So rather than skipping the goodbye, do it. Do it firmly. It will give them a sense of finality, prompting them to shift their focus from what you would do to what they should do, which is to go to class. Do note that goodbyes need not be dramatic. It can be fun, in fact. Do a special handshake or give them a high five. These gestures may be simple and quick, but it will help them come to terms with you leaving and them going to class.

Work with the teacher.

Pre-school teachers are trained and experienced in handling separation anxiety situations, but it’s important to work with them closely. It helps to give them a heads up about your child’s favorite games, songs, or colors, so they can adjust the classroom environment or come up with activities that capture the interest of your kid. Discuss with them calming techniques that you and your spouse use when your son or daughter is anxious. This way, the teacher can do the same and your child will be able to experience a sense of familiar comfort.

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

It’s a real struggle to manage separation anxiety among kids. But you can very well ease their stress and in fact, help them thrive in school by doing routines that address the root of their negative emotions. Keep in mind these strategies the next time you drop them at the daycare.

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