Separation Anxiety: Tips For Parents on the First Day of School

by: Anna Ridgeway, Lead Pre-Kindergarten Teacher 

separation anxiety

As the children begin the school year, many for the very first time, I would like to offer three simple suggestions in easing the important transition from home to school.

 1. Visit our classroom. Make a visit to school with your child before he/she begins school at our open house. This helps the child become familiar with the teachers and the school environment without the trauma of the parents leaving.


2. Demonstrate trust in the teacher. Be confident in the decision you have made on your child’s behalf. Often the child is receiving a double message: the teacher says everything is fine and safe while the parent may be supporting the child’s apprehension and fear by staying at school longer during our morning drop off. While the child is seeking comfort and feeling anxious about the parent’s inevitable departure, he/she is not free to have his/her experience of school, playmates, and activities. Until the child receives a positive message from both parent and teacher, the child will remain confused and the adjustment period will be prolonged. Show your child that you have confidence in his/her ability to be part of this new experience.


3. Make partings brief. Each child will approach good-byes in a different way. Some seem to handle the situation fairly well, some show signs of distress and settle down shortly, and others are extremely upset with parting. Separation anxiety can vary with the child’s age, his/her ability to deal with change in general, and with stresses in his/her life outside of school. In any case, this transition from home to school cannot fully occur without this parting. During the period of transition and adjustment, the parent should acknowledge and accept the child’s feelings. His/her sadness at “losing” the parent is very real, and should be allowed to admit these feelings. At the same time, it is important for the teacher and parent to remain positive about the situation. Show understanding and support for the child’s feelings, assure him/her that you will return at lunch or after naptime and leave him/her with a hug and a confident smile. Prolonging the parting prolongs the time it takes for your child to adjust to the morning good-byes.

Preschool/kindergarten children are usually ready and very excited about starting school, exploring the world beyond their homes, and having a social life outside of their family. We will do our best to support each child in making this transition as gentle as possible. If you have concerns about your child’s adjustment, we will be happy to discuss them. After the children have adjusted to school and feel confident with the routine, there will be opportunities for parents to visit our class during the morning. Attending field trips, coming to school on your child’s birthday, participating in seasonal festivals, and helping with special projects are excellent opportunities to see your child in action and participate in his/her school life.

 -Miss Anna