How to deal with back-to-school separation anxiety in children

To some parents, sending kids to school may be routine, but others may need some direction. Parents commonly encounter nerves, anxiety and restlessness from their child.

Here are some ways parents can help their children practice separation while staying relaxed throughout the process, courtesy of Dr. Jann Caison-Sorey, a senior medical director for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

  • Playing peak-a-boo or hide and seek with younger children. This activity allows the child to get used to absences. Throughout the course of the activity, the parent should say “I’ll be back” and then, upon return, reassure the child by saying “see, I’m back.” This builds trust with the child and eases stress.
  • Another way to get the child familiar with absences is to allow children to be in a safe room at home, but not within the parent’s sight line. This allows the child to become comfortable and familiar with separation from parents.
  • As the school year routine nears, practice the routine with your child by taking the child to another caretaker’s house (like a grandparent or a trusted friend with kids). This should begin two weeks before school starts. Again, it’s important to keep the routine, as success lies in the practice patterns.

Children transitioning from high school to middle school can also face anxiety when going back to school. With middle school and high school, new kids from other schools come together for the first time, which contributes to the pressure of making new friends and getting used to a new environment.

Below is a video where Dr. Caison-Sorey discusses separation anxiety and how to achieve back-to-school success.

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