Separation Anxiety at school

With school starting again, difficulties with children separating from their parents can arise. This can be very distressing for both children and parents and it can be very difficult to manage the difficult emotions that emerge.

In a calm moment at home, it is helpful to have a “policy talk” with your child. It is good to talk about all the things they are doing well at, and then to mention that you understand it is very hard for them to go into school in the morning, but as we have to go to school, you have some ideas that will help them to manage this.

Firstly decide with them a brief “goodbye, see you soon” routine, for example you may say when we reach the playground, I’ll stay until it’s time to go in, but then shall we have a kiss, a cuddle and a wave?” and adjust this with any of their suggestions which gives them more control of the situation.

When you do arrive in the playground, remind them that you will be thinking of them all day, and you will be there to see them again very soon (or remind them who else is meeting them) and describe something nice and comforting that they can look forward to eg “and after school, we can go home and have a lovely cuddle while we’re watching your favourite programme” / dvd /we can do some lego together/go to the park/ go and see Nanny/ do some playdough etc.

Then gently mention it is time to go in and it’s time to have your kiss cuddle and wave. If they are upset they will be likely to cling on or show in some other way that they don’t want you to go, try to be calm , kind and reassuring and just say “I know it’s hard, but I’ll be back very soon,” and remind them of the nice thing you will do later, have one more squeeze, then go kindly but firmly.

Your child will settle down more quickly when you have gone and dragging out the goodbye makes it more difficult both at the time and for other mornings. Above all, although difficult emotions run high, avoid showing irritation or anger as this will cause more complex problems over a longer time.

Other factors for the child and the parent can make this situation much more painful to manage, and much harder to sort out, and sometimes needs the help of a counsellor to improve this situation, so please contact me for an initial chat to see how I can support you and your child through this distressing time.