With a new school year beginning and children starting in new classrooms, parents may notice that dropping their children off has become more difficult than usual. Although not all children experience separation anxiety, it is very common for children to become upset when saying goodbye to their families. Though it can be very unsettling for a parent, families should remember that going through separation anxiety is typical in development. In order to help your child through this developmental stage, families need to understand what drives separation anxiety and how to identify coping tools that work best for their family.
What is Separation anxiety?
Children’s separation anxiety can be triggered by many different factors, but at the end of the day, children experience separation anxiety when they are being separated by their primary caregivers, who they trust and feel most comfortable with. Families might experience this when they leave for work, drop off at daycare, or sometimes even just leave the room. When you try to leave, your child may become clingy, begin to cry, or throw a tantrum.
Separation anxiety can begin as early as infancy and last through preschool years, while some children may never experience it at all. Children will also experience various degrees of separation anxiety. For example, some children may experience it when their parents leave them, even if it is just to go to another room in the house, whereas other children may only experience it when big changes happen in the lives, such as starting at a new school.
How to Battle Separation Anxiety
Watching your child get upset when you leave can be very unsettling for parents, but there are a few ways to help ease your child’s separation anxiety.
- If you know that a big change that could trigger separation anxiety in your child is approaching, such as starting at a new childcare center, prepare them for it in advance. At Educational Playcare, we encourage families to schedule visits prior to their first day, so that their children can become familiar with the environment and their teachers before they start full-time. This helps your child feel like they are part of a trusting community, which is one of our Core Values.
- Create quick goodbye routines. This could be something as simple as a cute goodbye phrase, setting your child up with a book and a blanket, or creating a special handshake when you leave. Whatever you decide, try to make your goodbye short and sweet. The longer you stay, the more upset your child will likely become when it’s time to leave.
- Be consistent. Once you establish a drop-off routine, do your best to stay on track each day. At first, this may be hard to do, but eventually your child will come to expect it during this time and the consistency will help diminish your child’s anxiety.
- Keep your promises. Some families like to help ease their child’s anxiety by telling them when they will return. If you do, be sure to keep your promises to them, as this will help build your child’s trust and confidence when you are apart.
It’s important for families to remember that experiencing separation anxiety is a normal part of development in young children. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s separation anxiety, talk to your child’s pediatrician who can provide additional support and resources.