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Fears and the first day of school: 5 ways to help your child succeed

Separation anxiety is common. Here are five ways to avoid the dreaded emotional drop-off on the first day of school.
Whitney Barrell, KSL Modified: August 14, 2014 at 6:40 pm •  Published: August 21, 2014

The first day of school is upon us, and many children are returning to school or starting their first day of kindergarten. This is a stressful time for children (and parents). Separation anxiety is common in school-age children. It is characterized by persistent or excessive worry about separating from a child’s primary caregiver. This translates into the dreaded emotional drop-off, a child who won’t get out of the car, they are pulled, tearful, into the school building only to scream as their parent walks away. We’ve seen it or we’ve been “that parent” only to return to our car and have our turn at crying. Not fun for anyone.

Even if your child isn’t excessively worried about going off to school, some of these techniques can ease the transition.

  • Normalizing: Express to your child that he isn't the only one nervous about the first day. All of his classmates will be feeling some level of anxiety. Let your child know that his teacher is aware of this and will work to make sure everyone feels comfortable. Give examples of previous situations where your child has been nervous for something new but was able to manage these feelings successfully.
  • Use a transitional object: Choose an object that your child can take to school. A locket with a parent's picture, a special stone to keep in a pocket and touch when feeling scared.

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