All Articles Parenting Kids Ages 5-10

Help for Back-to-School Anxiety

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

 

My 7 year old daughter has a hard time separating at the beginning of every school year.  Do you have any suggestions on how I could make the transition easier this year?  ~Marie

Dear Marie,

You are wise to start thinking of solutions now.  Some kids simply need a longer adjustment period to changes in routine.  For starters here are some ideas:

1)  Work towards implementing elements of the school year routine now.  Adjust wake up time accordingly.  Slowly add back in various elements of her morning ritual such as making her bed, eating breakfast after getting dressed, etc.  This way, she will have much less to adapt to when the school year starts.

2) Talk about the upcoming transition.  Let her express her feelings. Don’t be so quick to “fix it” for her; simply let her speak her mind and let her know that you hear and understand her worries.  Once you have empathized, you can revisit those issues and gently remind her of her previous successes in separating from you.

3)  Identify her worries. Together, make a list of the various fears she has.  Talk through the list and problem solve.  Discuss how realistic her fears are.  Help her problem solve and anticipate solutions to ones that may actually happen (like forgetting what bus to get on).  Giving her concrete tools can be very helpful in alleviating anticipatory anxiety.

4) Give her a transitional object. On the first day of school, find something that you can give your daughter that is special to you and reminds her of you.  Ideas include: an inexpensive piece of jewelry, a small picture for her pocket, or an item from your purse that she associates with you.

5) Have a plan for what will happen when she arrives home.  Tell her that you will celebrate her first day of school with chocolate chip cookies on a blanket in the back yard when she comes home.  Have the blanket folded by the back door and the mixing bowls out in the morning so she can have something visual to focus on when she is away at school.

May you find this year’s transition to be a joy rather than a chore!

About the author

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in children and families. CfP is the place she combines some of her very favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She loves encouraging parents to build their families upon Jesus, the one true Cornerstone. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring children.

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