Learning to say goodbye

Tips for relieving your child’s separation anxiety


Darren McRoy


Nervous about dropping your kids off at school for the first time? Worried if they'll be able to handle the strange environment without mom and dad alongside?

Separation anxiety is a common issue for kids leaving home (even just for a few hours) for the first time. Shelly Gray, educational director of the Goddard School in Cary, which works with kids from age 8 weeks to 6 years, shared some tips for making sure the transition goes smoothly:

Start them young. If possible, introduce occasional separation as young as infancy and maintain it through your kids' toddler-hood. "If you have someone starting at age 2, it's much harder," says Gray. "They don't understand, 'why is my mommy or daddy leaving'."

Keep track at home. Talk about school while at home. Be sure your child understands when they begin school and what days are school days. Gray suggests a big, cute, colorful calendar marked with school days, incorporating the teaching of dates along with preparing for separation.

Visit ahead of time. If at all possible, bring your child to the school before you have to leave him or her there. Explore the environment together so it becomes familiar. "Focus on what your kid likes, if they're excited about the gym or the cafeteria or the playground," Gray suggests. You may even be able to meet the teachers or principal.

Say goodbye once. When the time comes to part ways for a while, quick and clean is the way to go. "The longer the parent stays with the child, the harder the separation is," Gray says. A particularly good strategy is to get them distracted by their favorite thing in the new setting-they might barely notice you leaving.


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