How to help a child with separation anxiety at school
The first day of school, whether it’s daycare or preschool, is an important milestone for both kids and parents. It’s a time for learning, socializing, discovering, and growing, and one of the most transformative experiences. While this pivotal experience is exciting, it’s also natural for your little ones and parents to feel anxious about saying goodbye for the first time.
Separation anxiety in toddlers is a very common occurrence, especially when they are just beginning to explore new environments outside of their familiar surroundings. This might happen when they start attending daycare or other early childhood meetups. These experiences offer toddlers a taste of independence, but it's important to remember that starting school later on will provide them with an even more significant opportunity to develop their independence and social skills.
At Doona, we’re here to make every aspect of parenting simple, and that includes introducing your child to the wonderful world of school! So with that in mind, here are some of our favorite tips for parents to help their children with separation anxiety at school.
Talk it out
Kids are always nervous when trying new things, so introduce them to the concept of daycare or preschool gently by subtly bringing it up in conversation. Present the idea of school in a positive light, and reminisce about all the fun experiences you had when first going to school, such as the fun activities, new friends, and learning opportunities. The more you bring the subject up, the more comfortable they’ll be with it.
Read about it
There are several children’s books written directly to address separation anxiety in school, and helping kids cope with their first day. These are fun and optimistic books that broach the topic of going to school in a fun and exciting way. A couple of our favorites are Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey, How to Get Your Octopus to School by Becky Scharnhorst, and A New School Year by Sally Derby.
Choose a memento
Kids love familiarity, and school can be an often unfamiliar place. Choose a special item from your household, like a keychain, a special toy, or a family photo and pack it with them. Tell your child you’ve put all your love into that item, and it’ll be right next to them all day. Having a meaningful object with them can provide a sense of security and comfort.
Do a dry run
It can be overwhelming for a little child to take their first steps inside a new place. So why not take those steps with them? Visit the school you plan to send them to earlier before the year has started. Talk to the administration to allow you to visit the classroom, meet their teacher, and walk the halls of this new place right by their side. If your child isn’t used to separating from you, practice spending time apart. You can start by leaving them for a few hours in the care of a close relative or familiar friend. This gradual separation will allow your child to build confidence and familiarity with being away from you, making the transition to school a bit smoother. Remember to communicate positively about these short separations to reinforce that being apart can be an enjoyable experience.
Be honest with them
A lot of times it helps to share your own experiences with them, even some of the difficult experiences you may have had. Tell them you were nervous, admit that sometimes it was tough, but also sometimes it was amazing. When you don’t sugarcoat the entire experience, your child may listen to you more, and accept some of the challenges more wholeheartedly.
Celebrate the first day
Turn your child's first day of school into a memorable occasion. Celebrate their bravery with a special dinner, favorite snacks, or going for ice cream, allowing them to share their experiences and feelings about their first day.
Well, we hope our list of tips and tricks will help you and your child deal with separation anxiety at school. At Doona, we’re all about making it as easy as possible to raise your child in a kind and supportive environment. Be sure to check out even more parenting tips in our blog. And if you’re looking for products that can make those early years easier for both you and them, be sure to check Doona Car Seat & Stroller or Liki Trike!