parenting tips

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     Every child is different. Some will cry and cling to you like a barnacle on the bottom of a boat. Others will try valiantly to hold it together and manage a trembling lip. Still others like my daughter, will simply wave at the door, give you a Colgate smile and skip away into oblivion.  She didn’t even want me to walk in with her! I was the one crying! I think Kelli was ready for kindergarten because I had hauled her to the “everything’s” of both her older brothers: Open House, Class Parties, 1st days! She WANTED to go and couldn’t wait! She KNEW what to expect. She was EXCITED. Herein lies several big keys to get rid of separation anxiety before it can rear its ugly head.


Get Rid Of The Fear Of The Unknown:

  • classroom_2I’m not sure who said it, but I tend to agree that the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear. If you’re a woman and reading this, remember when you were pregnant? Do you  remember that one of your biggest fears was delivery? You didn’t know what to expect, because you hadn’t experienced it before. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” is such a popular book. We need to know, because it helps get rid of your fears. It’s your duty as a parent to get rid of the heebie- jeebies for your child. How do you do that? 
  • If there is an Open House you NEED to go. Schedule your vacation at a different time. There is nothing more important than going to the Open House. Speaking as a teacher, I spend a zillion hours getting everything ready for your child and making things extra special for them. They really miss out if you don’t attend. The biggest thing they will be missing is a chance to get rid of any fears they have. They especially need to meet the teacher and see their room. This may not be a “big deal” to you, but trust me; it’s a really big deal to a little kid. Making it a priority in your life also shows them that what is happening in their world is very important to you. This builds their self-esteem and helps them realize that school is important. 
  • Let them know even before Open House what goes on at school. I did this by taking my children to events that were held at school. You can also share positive experiences that you had as a child. “I just loved kindergarten. We had a class pet. I enjoyed painting at the easel and playing with Play-Dough and going on fieldtrips. I wonder if you’ll get to do those things too. We should ask your teacher when we see them.”


  • There are some wonderful First Day Of School/Separation Anxiety books on the market. Go to the library, and read several. I love: I Like School, The Good-Bye Book,  The Kissing Hand, First Day Jitters, Llama Llama Misses Mama,  The Night Before Kindergarten.

Make friends:

  • Children are no different than adults. Put yourself in their place. Do you like going to events where you don’t know anyone, where you have to fill out and slap on a “Hello my name is tag?” friendsDo a little research on your child’s behalf. See if the neighbor’s children, or kids up the street, or the children in his Sunday school class, are going to be in his class and then call up the parent and make a Play Date. If there is some sort of summer recreational activity going on in your area, it’s a great place to meet other children before school starts. Making a new friend before hand, so they can share the first day experience with, gives them something to look forward to. “Oh look Stevie! There’s Jason.” Is a great distraction tool.
  • After they’ve been in school awhile, ask who their new friends are and make after school or Saturday Play Dates with them.
  • Practice makes perfect so why not practice separating? Arrange Play Dates with friends..  Ask a grand parent to take your child for a few hours. Hire a sitter for an hour so that you can run errands instead of taking your child with you everywhere you go.
  •  Don’t tell your child “I’ll be right back.” To them that’s minutes. They don’t have a real concept of time. “I’ll be back when the hands on the clock look like this picture.” Then draw it for them and make sure you are not late. Or if they have a children’s play clock set the hands to that time.

Ask the right questions 

  • Don’t plant seeds of doubt by asking them leading questions like: “Are you worried about school?” “Are you worried about leaving mommy” You just opened a can of worms. Your child might not have had a care in the world and now you gave them something to think about, mull over and start to worry about. 
  • Instead, water a garden of excitement! “Wow! I bet you’re excited to start school and make new friends.” 
  • It’s good to ask them if they have any questions. You’d be surprised that some of their top questions involve practical things that they have fears about like: What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I forget to get off the bus? What if nobody likes me?  You can then address these and dispel their fears.

 Generate Excitement:

  • kindergartenHow else do you get them excited? There’s nothing like a trip to the mall and an adventure in shopping to add excitement. Bring them along when you go looking for school supplies, a backpack and school clothes. Give them a say in choices. 
  • Let them help pack their backpack the night before school. Let them choose a special snack for their lunch box, and allow them to help you make their lunch. Show them the options of what they can wear to school. I limited this to 2 choices with NO mind changing in the morning. Then lay everything out for the next day.

Be Organized: 

  • Having everything ready will make for a great morning and ease tension and anxiety. Allow for extra time so things run smoothly. If you’re calm, your child will be calm. Don’t forget the camera.

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     It's back-to-school and the biggest problem I face with my 4-year-olds is the fact that I always have at least one child who suffers from separation anxiety. Instead of this being a wonderul happy day for them, tears flow and you'd think we're at the doctor's office anticipating the dreaded shot!

     Here are some tried and true tips that are sure-fire methods in keeping the awful Anxiety Monster away!

Prepare Your Parents:

  •  Have you ever heard the saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” That is extremely applicable for separation anxiety and your parents. Yes, parents and not your students. I’m a firm believer in training parents as much as children. A child doesn’t come with an instruction manual and some parents are just better at easing into the job than others, just as some teachers get the hang of things right out of the gate.
  • If you give them a bulleted check list in your “Welcome to school” summer letter, chances are you might have a few less criers, or that the ones who do go into meltdown mode will at least have the equipment needed to settle down after mommy or daddy leave. Click on the link for a check list.  
  • You can also read my article “Separation Anxiety and What Every Parent Should Know To Prepare For the First Day Of School”  and give them the link to read it. 


Dispel The Fear Of The Unknown

  • Most schools have an Open House so that your students have a chance to meet you and see their room BEFORE the start of school. If your Open House is after school starts, see if you can get permission to have a “Meet You Teacher” night before the start of school. Have this the day before school starts. This will get rid of their biggest fear: “the fear of the unknown.”  
  • Give students something to look forward to in your summer letter. I tell mine that we will be studying dinosaurs. That is a hot topic for my little ones. I also let them know that after we finish a fun activity they will get to choose a little dinosaur to take home.  
  • At Open House I make sure that they get to see all the cool toys and our beautiful playground. These are also wonderful things that get them excited to want to come back and do. 
  • family I make sure to mention that they will make lots of new friends and encourage parents to introduce children while at Open House.  I often initiate introductions. “Hi Carter. Have you met Jason? He’s in our class too, and likes soccer just like you. “Then I walk away and hope parents do the rest… 
  • So that there is a comforting “school-home” connection, I include a coloring “about me” dinosaur in my students’ “Welcome Packet” that parents pick up at Open House.  Because they’ve had  some quality time with family filling this out when they share it with the class, it’s not only a great “ice breaker”, but a reminder that their family loves them and did this activity at home with them because school is important.  If someone didn’t come to Open House, or forgot to bring their dino, I let them know they can share their dinosaur on the next day of school.
  • You can also have that “school-home” connection by asking families to bring a family photo with them to Open Houseon a collage them on a wall. Then when you have meltdown moments you can take a child and show them the “We LOVE you!” wall. Have colorful paper hearts available for parents to write the words “We love you _______.” on, and then attach those next to the photo so they can see their name on the wall as well.

Prepare Yourself:bawling_kid

  • Hopefully parents will have read your note and be prepared. YOU be prepared that they have not, and that you will be dealing with two people in meltdown mode. The parent and the child. Be caring; this is a mom who is a bit tearful about leaving her child for the first time. She worries that she’ll be crying all day. She’s also embarrassed that things are out of control.  Use reassuring words that everything will be fine. That all of this is normal, that every child reacts differently, and that we will all have a great day. Keep your smile on your face, your voice calm and convincing. 
  • Now is the time to try and distract the child. I have a pin wheel and a bottle of bubbles. I ask the child which one they would like to blow on. The bubbles or the pin wheel. You do not ask a crying child yes or no questions. The answer will always be no.  It’s hard to blow and cry. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t so always have plan B.   
  • Just in case my parents didn’t send a token to school with their child, I have a basket of “lovies” that a child can choose from to “cling” to ‘til the “drama trauma” is over. There’s nothing like a soft plush animal to sooth feelings. I let them know before hand that the lovies have to go back in the basket when the timer rings because it is their nap time. This way I don’t have to have them go into meltdown mode all over again, trying to get them unclung from something else in order to have them be able to participate in activities and do some work. They can also have the option to keep the lovie on their lap or table top if they promise to do some work, if this option will get them to quiet down. I ask the crying child which one they’d like to hold.  
  • If they still are crying I simply take them by the hand and say. “I need a special helper today, and I pick you!”  Then I lead them away. I always make sure that mom has already said good-bye and given them a kiss and hug etc. then I take the rest of my children into the room so mom is out of sight and I can get things rolling.  
  • This works if I only have one or two children crying.  Amazingly, children do quiet down within 5 minutes of parents leaving.

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