Separation anxiety making going to school a nightmare? There is help!

August 21, 2007 Katja Presnal

Separation anxiety making going to school a nightmare? There is help!

Children clinging to their parents’ legs, crying “don’t leave” and throwing extreme tantrums – sound familiar?

Most babies get some sort of separation anxiety when they are just learning to understand that things exist even when they are out of sight. It is very common that even older children get separation anxiety when their daily life faces changes, like when going to a daycare, or starting a pre-school. Separation anxiety is part of normal development, and will be outgrown.

It is good for the parents to remember, that the fear children feel is real, and the way parents address it, has a dramatic effect how they can overcome their fear of something happening to the parent while they are in school.

Four mistakes parents do:

1. Sneak out avoiding a scene. The solution is only a short term, and will not build trust and confidence to your child.

2. Avoid the situation by staying home. It just gives the child a reason to believe that there is a valid reason to fear loosing you while in school.

3. Crying how much you are going to miss your child too.

4. Coming back to check if she/he is ok.

What you can do to help you child:

1. Make school less scary, meet the teacher, see the class room and make friends with some classmates even before the school starts.

2. Let your child take familiar and favorite items to school, like the backpack they chose, or a t-shirt you bought together on your vacation.

3. Be trustworthy. Explain when you will be back, and keep your promise to build trust.

4. Be calm and consistent. Show example of calm behavior and confidence that there is no reason for your child to have the fear.

5. Say a loving, but short and firm goodbye, making it longer will make it only more difficult for your child.

Remember that this is only a temporary situation, and your child will outgrow it. It is always good to discuss things openly with your child, to see if there are some other things that worry him. Bring a box of tissues with you, but don’t use them until you have said goodbyes to your child. When you show you are confident and trust the school and teacher, your child will learn to be confident in school too.

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Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal shows how to live Nordic inspired life to the fullest and plan your dream life. Katja owns Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency and wants to help marketing professionals to combine a dream career and dream life via freelance work. Katja is an award-winning marketing strategist, and a well-known speaker. Katja has lived in five different countries, and seven states in the USA. Her three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners. She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks.

Comments (6)

  1. MonkeysMama

    Thanks for this! I think, however, I will be the one suffering from separation anxiety!

  2. Stacey

    And always remember that when they’re in highschool as my older two are, there will be high-fives, ‘YESSS!’s and no snowday dances to be done the second the door is closed! (promise)

  3. Deb - Mom of 3 Girls

    There’s some good tips in there, thanks! I’ve got a child starting school for the 2nd year in a row, plus a toddler suffering from an extreme case of separation anxiety… :)

  4. Katja from

    Just blog.

    I don’t know, it going to be tough. My daughter is starting the school for the first time too, on Thursday.

  5. Adventures In Babywearing

    This is helpful… but is there something for the PARENTS? I am going to miss Noah when he’s gone all day in school!


  6. Lauren

    Good article. I used to volunteer in the children’s area at my church. Sometimes parents would come back to check on the child or if he/she started crying, they would change their minds and take the kid with them into church service. The children learned that if they cried enough they would get their way. It was obvious to me who wore the pants in the family.

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