How to help your kid with separation anxiety when she first goes to school

Your little one is now not so little! She is ready to go to school. If your child has never been to a daycare or playgroup earlier or has never stayed away from you for long periods of time, school can be intimidating. What if you had to go to a strange new country where you don’t know anyone? What if going was not even your choice and you’ve no idea when you will be back home again? Doesn’t that sound straight out of a creepy thriller? Well, that’s pretty much the situation for a four-year-old who is stepping into school for the very first time. Here are some tips to help you and your child deal with separation anxiety

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What is school?

Schools have different processes for admission. Some have the lottery system, some do discreet ‘interviews’ and some others only meet the parents. Whatever be the process, take your child to the school at least once before D-day. Show her the school building, the playground, the activity area, the classrooms, the toilets etc. Tell her what she will be doing in these spaces. Allow her to explore the place by herself while you keep an eye. At home, make references to the school and what she did there when you visited. Speak in a cheerful way so the child associates the school with something positive.

What will happen at school?

Just as you’d like to know the agenda for a meeting at work, your child too could do with some information on what’s likely to happen at school. Will she be taking the school bus? Who will take her inside the classroom? How many teachers will be there? What will she be learning? What will be there in her snack box? For how long does she have to be there? Your child may not be able to tell the time but knowing that she will come back home at the end of a school day is important to the child.

When will you leave?

Some parents think it’s best if they distract the child and slip out before she realizes what’s happening. This is a terrible idea and only makes separation anxiety worse. You will end up breaking the trust your child has in you and she is likely to become insecure about going to school. Always tell the child that you are leaving, even if she is going to throw a tantrum. Speak calmly and in an assured manner. Kneeling down to the height of your child and speaking helps.

Whom can you approach at school?

At this age, your child may not be completely independent and she might need help from adults for doing different things. Tell your child that she can approach the teacher or school maushi if she needs assistance. You can play out different scenarios with the child – whom to ask if she wants to use the toilet, whom to approach if she accidentally wets herself, what to do if she is not feeling well etc. Also tell her that if there is something in school that she’s unhappy about, she can always tell you about it.

What happened today?

Once your child is back from school, talk to her about her day. She may not respond much or give you many details but that’s all right. Take an interest anyway. Talking about your own school days is a good idea too! What you were like on your first day at school, what sort of friends and teachers you had and so on. Even if your child cannot communicate very well, she will start seeing school as a happy place.

Before your know it, your child will make friends and miss going to school even on a Sunday. It might be impossible for you to imagine this happening right now, but remember that you too were wailing at the school gate not so very long ago!

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