It’s that time of year again! Kids are back in school. Whether you’re dropping your child off for the first time or the seventh, the back-to-school anxiety can be overwhelming. (I get it — I have three children of my own.)
Do you want to know the secret to success? Put your child in charge.
Here’s the thing: in life, there are always going to be situations which cause our children to feel uncertain or uncomfortable. If we don’t address separation anxiety now, studies show that we risk it mushrooming into a separation anxiety disorder later. In 75% of the cases studied, children then outright refused to go to school.
But, together, we can develop a process that’s useful in many anxiety-producing situations.
5 Ways to Help Your Child Take Charge of Worry
1. Before the drop-off, talk to them about how they can talk back to the worry. For example, some kids refer to their fear as their Worry Bully or Worry Villain. Personifying it lets them practice speaking to it, which puts them in control. When they do it, reward, reward, reward!
2. During the drop-off, minimize talking, and simply be a role model. Kids pick up what we’re feeling, so one of the best things you can do is to stay cool yourself.
3. Simply let them know that you understand this is scary and tough for them. Staying cool doesn’t mean we ignore their feelings. On the contrary, validating their feelings is essential — as is telling them that they can do this.
4. After the drop-off, reward them for making it through. After-school treat, anyone?
5. If your child needs an ongoing process (and many do!), create a Brave Jar or Wall of Flexibility to show progress.
It might also help to remember that trouble separating from their parent is normal in young children. Totally normal.