How to Ease Separation Anxiety in Children |

9 Ways to Ease Separation Anxiety in Children

Advice to ensure a smooth transition into pre-school for your little one

Posted on

2 September 2019

Last updated on 2 September 2019

Worried that your child will suffer from separation anxiety when going back to school in Dubai? Here's some advice from the pros...

When it comes to the first day of school, it's normal for parents to feel sad, guilty and fear when watching their little ones go off to embrace education. But when it comes to back-to-school anxiety, your child is probably feeling it, too.

This is what we call separation anxiety; the fear of being separated from a parent or other significant person in a child's life. As parents, we pray and hope that our little one won't have to deal with this very common pre-school anxiety - but the good news is, it's completely normal.

SEE ALSO: Here's how you can get involved in your child's education

In fact, the beginning of a school year is the number one cause of separation anxiety in pre-schoolers. Some children transition smoothly, but others have a tough time in the beginning and display symptoms that vary.

Crying, yelling, acts of defiance, and extreme quietness are all signals of separation anxiety in little ones.

The team at Swiss International Scientific School Dubai (SISD) know this can be a difficult time for both the child and you the parent. Which is why they're sharing advice on the many things you can do to help your child with the transition to preschool before, during and after school begins.

"We are here to work with you, as a team, to help your child transition as smoothly as possible into school", their team explain.

"With that in mind, we give you the following tips..."

Before school starts

Tip 1: Read stories to them

There are many books available that will help you and your child talk about school! Some of our suggestions are:

  • Don’t Go by Jane Breskin Zalban
  • My First Day At Nursery School by Becky Edwards
  • First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
  • I Love you All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas
  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Tip 2: Send a family photo

Bring a small, family photo to school on the first day and hang it by your child’s school bag! Your child can see their family whenever they need to during the day!

Tip 3: Choose a drop-off routine

Let your child know in advance what to expect and what will happen when they arrive at school. Doing this before you get to school will help your child feel secure when they arrive.

SEE ALSO: 5 tips for effective communication in children

Example: “When we get to school, we’ll find your nametag and put your school bag in the right place and then we will use the bathroom. We can read a story or do a puzzle together. After that, I will leave, and you will stay at school with your friends and teachers. I will come back to pick you up after Story Time.”

First day of school

Remember folks, you need to follow through with your plan! It is important for you to be consistent with your routine when dropping your child off. Follow through with the plan you have decided on.

Once you have read one story or completed one puzzle, it is time for you to say goodbye and leave—not time to read a second story or start a second puzzle. If your child is having a tough time with this, let the SISD team know you are ready to leave. They will help you say goodbye and redirect your child to an activity!

Tip 4: "Read" the daily schedule

You may find it helpful to read our daily schedule with your child. It will be emailed to you before school starts. Showing your child what will happen during the day and pointing out when you will return to pick up will be comforting. We will also review this with the children in the morning.

Tip 5: Stay calm and don't apologise

When a child is crying, many times as parents, we apologize for leaving. Doing this unintentionally gives your child the idea you are not comfortable with them staying at school. Rather than saying, “I’m sorry. Mommy has to leave now.” Try “It’s time for me to leave now. Have a fun day! I will see you after story time!”.

Tip 6: Say goodbye to your child and... leave!

This is the most important step to a successful drop-off. Notice there are 2 steps in this tip. Let’s look at both!

Step 1: Start by saying goodbye. It sometimes seems easiest and best to quietly leave the classroom when your child is busy playing and skip the goodbyes. We know from experience that this is not the best choice! Your child is happy and focused and confident that you are nearby. When he or she realizes you are gone, panic can set in. Remember, separation anxiety is the fear of being separated from you. To your child, you didn’t leave, you disappeared. This begins the anxiety all over! Please say goodbye.

SEE ALSO: Here's how you can reduce your child's screen time

Step 2: Once you say goodbye, you need to LEAVE! Do not drag out the goodbye. If you are not going to leave right away, do not say goodbye. But, once you say goodbye, leave promptly, with a smile on your lips.

Tip 7: Help SISD to help you

If your child is having a rough time of you leaving, let the SISD team know. Hand your child to them. Handing your child TO them (rather than them “taking” your child FROM you) tells the child that you trust the SISD team, and it is okay to come to us while still missing you.

Their team knows this can be difficult for you as well as your child. But, don’t worry... They have a 10-minute rule! SISD do not want your child to be upset any more than you do. They want the school to be a positive experience! As a result, they have a 10-minute rule: If your child is still upset after 10 minutes, a member of their team will call you and try again or set up a new plan to help your child ease into school.

Pick-up time

Tip 8: Be on time

Your child tells time by the activities of the day, not by a clock. If you are not there when other children are being picked up, your child worries. If you are running late, please call SISD so they can let your child know.

Tip 9: Be focused

Be prepared to give 100% focus to your child at pick-up. They’ve had an exciting day and want to share with you. This is a great time for you to look at something your child created, meet one of their new friends and to reinforce that you picked them up when you said you would! Please turn off your cell phones before picking your child up.

Final thoughts to remember

Separation anxiety can return even after it seems to be gone for good. It might return after a long weekend, a vacation, absence for an illness or a school break.

If this happens, following the previous steps will help your child through it once again. This time, it will be easier because trust has been built between your child and the SISD team.

SEE ALSO: 4 important skills your child should be learning in school

If you have concerns about your child’s separation anxiety, talk to SISD! Their team can set up a time to talk on the telephone or to meet at school while another staff member plays with your child. They are here to team with you to help your child transition smoothly.

Swiss International Scientific School
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Swiss International Scientific School
The Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai is a leading international school where future generations are inspired to become confident and enthusiastic life-long learners, ready to embrace the opportunities and challenges in a global world.

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