6 Ways to Help with Separation Anxiety at School
Out for a stroll in the nearby park and we heard a group of moms discussing their children. The topic – Separation anxiety of their child. One of the moms grimaced that her son Tim absolutely cannot bear to be away from her, even if she leaves him at her parents place. The other moms nodded in approval, most of them resigned to the fate of being with their child almost all the time. Worst of all, the screaming when any of them is not near their kid.
We’re sure the above episode sounded familiar to all the parents and especially the mothers reading this. Separation anxiety kicks in the moment your child starts going to the school or has a change of classroom where everyone is new and a familiar face does not exist. In such circumstances the child is bound to feel lonely and miss the mom. The child usually comes back home crying of cribbing over wanting to drop off from the school or missing the friends from the previous class and this is something you really can’t talk the kids out of. Kids being the way they are!
Put yourself in the child’s shoes and you’ll realize where all this anxiety is coming from. It goes without saying that the mother is the first source of physical and emotional safety for a child and the separation would obviously trigger a negative response in most of the children. That feeling of not knowing the reason for this separation and not being accustomed to her new surroundings scares the child. This automatically results in the expected response from the child, which is crying, its only mode of conveying the true feelings at that age. Your assurances too have the most momentary of soothing relief for the kid as the anxious child panics once you leave. Repeated assurances too only go as far in convincing the child.
Still, there are ways you can help speed that process along. Here are six of them.
- Successful process demand a routine
Successful reassurances occur when the child knows that things are in order and falling into a pattern. Making a school routine and going over it as often as you can with the child leads to positive reassurances. You have to be on guard and keenly observant about any changes that might occur in the routine. Your primary motive in this exercise should be to minimize the fear of not going to the school but be careful about sending out the right message to the child. Her fear or her “tantrum” should never dictate a change in the routine or the child not going to the school.When the child knows that her or her day will usually have the same beginning, middle and end, it calm the child down.
- Give your child a battery-less watch
It’s a trick which works well with most of the children experiencing separation anxiety. Get a batter-operated watch for your kid and set it on the time when you’ll be picking him up. As you drop him off, take the battery out of the watch so that the watch stays at the pick-up time. Next co-ordinate with the teacher and explain the process to him/her. Set a clock in the room for pick-up time. So every time your child misses you, all the teacher has to do is to get the child to match his watch with the time on the pick-up clock and reassure him.
- Be punctual with your pick-ups
Delays in pick-up hurt the most! So it is of paramount importance that you are always punctual in picking up your child.Your child needs to know that he can rely on you and that he would be safe once the school time is over. Delay in picking up the child increased the anxiety when the child witnesses the other parents picking up their children and you are not there. The child is bound to get scared in such circumstances. Therefore being punctual reinstates the trust your child has in you and causes no imbalance in the emotional safety he experiences at school and at home.
- “Make your child use stickers”
Ignoring the feeling of sadness the child experiences when he’s away from you is counter-productive to the overall growth and development of your child. It is extremely important that your child has some sort of an outlet to express himself especially when he is feeling sad. A way out is to buy your child a journal where he can put a “sad sticker” whenever the sadness kicks in. Co-ordinate with the child’s teacher who should help the child in the process as well. In this way the child will learn how to deal with the sadness and again give her an assurance that his feelings are being acknowledged once you go through the journal in his presence back home. It also allows you to see just how often she’s sad during the day and you can keep a track of her sadness, to see if her sadness is increasing or decreasing.
- Give her a laminated “kiss”
This is the cutest thing on the menu and works wonders in providing emotional stability to the child. More than adults, children associate kisses with love and security. To reinstate this sense of love and security, put red lipstick on, kiss a piece of paper, and then laminate the kiss. Put the laminated kiss in the child’s bag where he knows where it is kept. The can go give mom a kiss any time he wants to. And because it’s laminated it can be wiped off!
- Desperate times Desperate measures
In case none of the tricks above seem to work and the child is still experiencing separation anxiety then ask the school if you can stay with your kid in the school/nursery for a couple of days to ease the process of letting the kid adapt to the new environment. Although it is easier said than done but if that’s what it takes, do it.You need to show your child that he is safe enough to enjoy school. Here’s how this works:
You don’t really have to get hassled in this process. All you need to do is sit in a corner of the room, maybe read a book, ensuring the child of your presence and that everything is alright. In a couple of days when the child becomes used to the environment and has made a few friends, move your chair closer and closer to the door and finally exiting it after realizing that your child is in-tune with the class and the people.
Remember that these tips may not remove the separation anxiety altogether but will surely help soothing the child and reassuring him over a period of time that the school is a safe place for her and that you will come on time to pick him up.