The first day of school can be scary for children, regardless of whether it’s kindergarten or middle school. The change into a new school year leaves children feeling excited and nervous about what’s to come. It’s no wonder many children cling to their parents or guardian during this time.
As parents and guardians, you are their safe zone. They don’t know what to expect going into a new school year so they stick to what they’re most comfortable with: you. This is tough for many, but there are ways to make separation anxiety a little bit easier.
Tip #1: Practice Leaving
If you notice your child is more attached to you than others and you have a trusted adult you can leave them with, do so. Even if it’s for just a few minutes or an hour a few days a week, doing this will get your child used to you not being around all the time.
It’s understandable that not everyone has family near them so hiring a babysitter for this is another option if you have the means to. If hiring someone is out of the question, I suggest looking for free children’s events going on around you.
These events can be at places like libraries, places of worship, or community centers in your neighborhood. While you may not be able to leave the premises during programs, you can try to distance yourself from your child little by little to get them acclimated.
Tip #2: Create Rituals for Before and After School
Another thing that may help is giving them something to look forward to before and after school each day. This can be something as simple as a big bear hug or as elaborate as a super-secret handshake you make up together. Regardless of what you choose, having that special ritual for pick up and drop off will send your child off in a positive mood.
Tip #3: Let Them Wear Something of Yours
Maybe you have a headband you wear all the time, or maybe it’s a bracelet. If you let your child wear something of yours that they know you love, it’ll give them a memento to look at whenever they’re missing you during school. If you don’t have a piece of clothing or accessory you want them to wear, you could always send them with a picture of you.
Regardless of what you send them with, make a note to let the teacher know. This way, they can help remind your child to look at it when their feelings are intense.
Tip #4: Create Matching Bracelets
Along the same lines as tip #3, making matching bracelets together is another good idea. Creating matching bracelets is helpful in a handful of ways. First and foremost, you’re spending quality time with your child. This quality time will turn into a memory they can think about whenever they look at their bracelet.
On top of that, you’re showing your child that you care about their feelings, and you’re doing your best to help them overcome the fear of leaving you.
Tip #5: Create Feel Good Lists For the Year
Feel-good lists are really helpful for getting your child excited for the upcoming year. The premise is to have your child list 3-5 things they’re excited about for the school year. You could use fun markers and paper to write down and decorate a list to hang on your refrigerator, or you could have your child tell you in conversation.
Personally, I prefer creating and decorating the list on paper because it allows your child to express their personality. It also gives you another opportunity to make memories together. Along with that, it’ll serve as a constant physical reminder of the things they’re looking forward to.
Tip #6: Don’t Negate Their Feelings
Feeling nervous and anxious about not being close to you is a completely natural thing for kids. A child’s parent is their most trusted caregiver and a “clingy” child is a sign of good parenting. The fact that they feel so safe with you is a compliment to your parenting.
If they’re having a particularly hard moment at drop off or before leaving for school, it’s important to show grace and patience. Lashing out at your child when your frustration will do nothing but escalate the situation, so it’s imperative you do your best to be empathetic.
Tip #7: Have a Solid Routine
Children thrive on routines. Change is hard for most kids, and having a consistent wake-up/bedtime routine will make them feel more comfortable as the days go on. Keeping to the routine, especially at bedtime, is a game-changer for morning moods. If your little one is getting enough sleep and they feel well-rested they’re more likely to have a good day.
Tip #8: Don’t Linger at Drop-Off
While it’s hard to watch your kid struggle with drop-off, lingering only makes it worse. When they see you standing there, they wonder why you won’t come to get them. Not to mention it’s just as hard on you as it is your child. It’s best to just rip off the band aid and let the teacher or aid handle it from there.
Tip #9: Prepare Your Child for What is Coming
Feeling prepared makes a change feel way less intimidating than going in blind. Over the last few weeks of summer break, sit down with your child and talk through what will happen. Go over your drop-off and pick-up plans and, if possible, tour your child’s school, so they don’t feel lost on the first day.
Separation anxiety is one of the toughest parts of parenting. We want our children to trust us and feel safe when they’re home, but we also need to teach them to do life without us. Using the tips mentioned in this post will significantly help decrease any separation anxiety you and your child may be feeling.
It’s also worth noting that most teachers and aids have gone through this before with previous students. They know how to handle children having a hard time, and they do so with kindness. The first day of school doesn’t have to be scary!
School for Little Children is an early childhood program that has been educating children and supporting families since 1934, located in the heart of downtown Evanston.
Phone: 847.864.3889 | Web: slcevanston.org | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org