ABH Maryland

How to Deal with Separation Anxiety When It’s Time for Kids to Return to School


How to Deal with Separation Anxiety When It’s Time for Kids to Return to School

  • Children Mental Health

As summer break begins to wear out its welcome, back-to-school anxiety creeps into children’s minds and many parents wonder how to help a child with separation anxiety at school.

Children and adolescents will begin to show worry and may start asking questions. Who will be my teacher? Where should I sit at lunch? Will I have any friends in my class? 

But some young people develop excessive anxiety that disrupts their lives. They may have temper tantrums or outbursts, withdraw from the family, or complain of headaches or stomach pains. These could be signs of a serious problem.

Preventing Back-to-School Anxiety 

You may notice changes in a child’s demeanor not just in the run-up to the school year, but even carrying through the first weeks. Here are some ways to prepare your children for the change.

Take care of the child’s physiological needs. Ensure they observe age-appropriate bedtimes, eat healthy and regular meals, and stay active. Everything starts with these needs. The first day of school is stressful for any young person; if they are hungry or cranky, this stress will only be exacerbated.

Practice Active Listening. The best way to prove to an anxious child that you are on their side is to listen to them. Following the best active listening practices will allow your child to talk through their anxiety, and you will better understand what is troubling them.

Keep Things in Perspective. Children do not have the perspective that adults do, so they consider the start of a new school year a matter of life or death. Acknowledge their worry and remind them that they will be capable of handling any challenges that will come their way. Find affirmations for anxiety that speak to their worries and repeat them before bedtime. (This is helpful for adults as well).

5 Practical Steps to Ease Separation Anxiety

  • Tour the school ahead of time. Familiarize your child with the front entrance, the playground, and the classrooms, if possible. This preparation could also allow your child to meet the teacher and make introductions, which will go a long way to easing anxiety.
  • Create a special parting routine. A unique hug or loving message between the two of you will make your child feel encouraged. 
  • Leave a special note in your child’s lunch that will remind them of you when they feel overwhelmed. 
  • Have a fun event planned for after the school day, and remind your child of this at drop-off. Even just a promise that your child can tell you everything that happened at the end of the day will give them something to focus on instead of their anxiety.
  • Small children may benefit from role play. Act out a separation and reunion scenario with dolls or toys. Give them a chance to be the guardian and let them pretend to drop the adult at school. This exercise will help normalize the situation and make it seem less threatening.

Finally, it will be time for your child to say goodbye. It is important to stay confident and firm at this point. Transfer the child to the care of another adult, express your love and well wishes, and then turn around and leave.

Even if the child protests, it is important for you as the adult to understand that the teachers at the school are capable enough to handle your child’s needs and that your child is capable of handling whatever the day has in store. 

Don’t be alarmed if your child has a breakdown at the end of the day when they next see you again. This is a natural time for them to release the pent-up emotions from the day. The best you can do is be warm and supportive.

Contact Us

At Advanced Behavioral Health, we understand that being young can be stressful and that sometimes everybody feels anxious about big changes like going back to school.

If your child suffers from back-to-school anxiety, try the tips above for how to help a child with separation anxiety at school. Don’t hesitate to call our team of qualified mental health specialists for more support.

You can call us at 301-345-1022 or send us a message online here. One of our team members will be standing by to help you find the confidential consultation you need.

When you think of the well-being of a child, you first think of basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are met, however, it’s crucial for a child to have emotional and social wellness as well. In this article, we will explore the impact social wellness has on the overall health of a child and great ways for children to garner social support in their lives.

It comes as no surprise that as human beings, we all need connection with others, no matter what stage of life we are in. In fact, having social support is a social determinant of health (SDOH) that significantly impacts the health of an individual. After spending the last few years in and out of isolation due to the Covid-19 outbreak, social support is more important now than ever before. Having social support means having family members and friends you can talk to and seek advice from when life feels challenging and overwhelming. Knowing you’re not alone in your life journey, especially as a child, creates a sense of belonging and empowerment throughout one’s life.

4 Types of Social Support

Emotional Support. This type of support lets you know that people care about you and have empathy for your experiences. Emotional support often looks like people checking in on you to let you know they’re thinking of you, and that they are there if you need anything. As a parent, make sure your child knows you can be a sounding board for them. If you have family members who can also show up for your children in this way, even better!

Practical Help. This type of support is when people give you something tangible or offer a service to help you out. This could be in the form of money, making food when you are sick, or helping to pack when moving. Having family and friends show up in this way shows your child what it looks like to be present for people you love.

Sharing Points of View. This type of support can often come in the form of affirmations and encouragement. For example, pointing out your child’s strengths to them and reminding them they can do anything they put their mind to. It can also look like sharing another perspective if they are being hard on themselves. For example, if they are angry with themselves after receiving a bad grade on a test, you can help them see it as a learning experience and a way for them to grow.

Sharing Information. This type of support is when someone shares what they’ve learned from their own life experiences. For example, if another parent has a child who struggles with socializing, they can share some tips and tricks they’ve learned to help their child find and create social support.

The Importance of Social Groups and Extended Support

Children who are connected to their family, friends, and people in their community have opportunities to learn how to speak, share, and get along with others. When your child feels connected to people in your neighborhood, it often allows them to feel physically safe which can alleviate stress and worry. Simply riding bikes, going on walks, and saying hello to neighbors with your kids can create this sense of security for them.

In addition to engaging with your neighbors, getting involved in local organizations can also create social support for your child. Signing up for a sports team, musical theater, art class or summer camp are all great ways to help your child meet new friends and learn important social skills that can carry them through their lives.

Tips for Helping Kids Make Community Connections:

Spend time outside in your neighborhood playing on the playground, going to a local farmer’s market, or scheduling a playdate with neighborhood kids.

Show your kids that connection is a two-way street. If your neighbors or friends go out of town, offer to get their mail, or water their plants and take your child with you when you go. This will show your child how you show up for people you care about.

Make sure you make time for socializing with friends as well. Your child looks to you first and foremost for how they should act and live their own life.

Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone and do something they may be scared to do. As a parent, it’s your job to push them into something social for their own well-being at times.