It’s the start of a new school year—and a new experience for your family if you have a child just entering preschool or kindergarten. The day is likely to be filled with emotion, possibly compounded by separation anxiety that your child (or even you!) may experience.
Parents may be surprised to find themselves experiencing mixed emotions and anxiety on the first day of school. While you will likely be excited about your child’s growing independence, you may be sad to officially leave the “baby days” behind and have concerns about your child’s well-being: Will my child make friends? Will he like his new teacher? Will she miss me? Will the house be too quiet without my child?
As a parent, be assured that this is a normal and common reaction on the first day of school. It’s hard for parents to separate from their children too. You’re used to having that child be a part of your day, your life and daily activities—it’s a milestone for your child and you.
The following are suggestions for avoiding anxiety-filled moments:
- Be positive and upbeat. If you’re enthusiastic about school, your child may gain confidence from you.
- If someone else special to the child such as a grandparent or a neighbor would be better at sending your child to school, ask them to help.
- Provide your child with a picture of you or the family that he or she can look at when feeling sad. Communicate this with the teacher, and let her or him call the shots on where the picture is kept and when your child should be able to get it out.
- Have a plan for where you will say goodbye and stick to it. Prolonged goodbyes can make the separation harder for both parent and child.
- Talk with your child’s teacher about how you are feeling, and ask how your child is coping while in the classroom.
Often the child’s anxious behavior is solely for your benefit, and the teacher may not even know that you are having any difficulty.
The early days of school signal an important and exciting transition, as your child reaches new milestones and levels of independence and learning. Keeping communication channels open between you and your child, and between home and school, will foster the cooperation necessary for your child to thrive as she meets the challenges of this new phase in her life.