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Reducing Parental Separation Anxiety on the First Day of School

By Contributing Writer, Llouana Harper

Separation anxiety can be expected when it comes to youngsters, parents and the first day of school. It’s one of the most difficult hallmark events for both, but for parents the anticipation, fear, worry and sense of helplessness with not being there to guide and protect them can be overwhelming. So here are a few things that parents can do:

  • Parents can visit the school with their little one so that both can see the school, maybe meet the teacher and look around the classroom.
  • They can drive the youngster to school, preferably mimicking the bus route, at least a couple times before school starts, and practice saying goodbye, especially if they make up a special goodbye that they’d like to do; something silly is best.
  • After the little one is at school the parent may want to send the main teacher an email to check in and see how the child is doing.
  • If the parent(s) doesn’t work then s/he may want to indulge in one of their favorite activities. Whether the parent(s) stays at home or works away from home, then s/he may want to take a few deep breaths when flooded with worry and invoke self-compassion. Parents should take time throughout the day to remind themselves that no matter how the morning went, they’ll have the afternoon to debrief with the child. For the child, the prospect of making new friends is underway and their brains are going to get stimulated. For the parent, it’s a reminder that s/he did a good job by helping their child/ren get to this point.

Sending the wee ones off to school is a bittersweet moment in life and parents can manage if they can be gentle with themselves and plan as much as they can. One thing to remember is that many other parents have gone through this rite of passage, and they can do it too.

Llouana Harper is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and National Certified Counselor (NCC) in the Virginia/DC Metro area.  She has been in the mental health field for over 12 years and primarily works with children, adolescents and their families.  She also co-founded and works as a therapist at Group Therapy Associates.

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