Separation anxiety, it can happen very young, or at preschool, and even in elementary school. It can be a real concern and stress for a parent, especially when it first appears.
For some children it is not a big issue; for others it can be cyclical and continue to return long after you thought it was over. Separating from parents is the first big step out into the world. It can be difficult, but it’s so important for your child to know you believe in him or her. You must believe your child is ready and able to handle school before your child will believe it. This is the beginning of creating an independent, self-confident adult.
You, your child, and in the case of preschool, your child’s teacher must build a relationship of trust. My parent is gone, but my teacher will take care of me. It’s hard for any parent to see their child upset without wanting to make the situation better right away. If you find yourself always jumping in before you give your child a chance to work things out, separation anxiety may be a tough one for you. This type of anxiety only goes away if you set the example for your child. You have to believe you are doing the right thing – or at least act like you believe it!
If you are insecure about leaving your child at school, your child will feel insecure about being at school and may not even know why. So do your homework and know that you are leaving your child in competent and kind hands. If your child expresses concerns, let your child know those feelings are normal and don’t dwell on it. Acknowledge the feelings and move on to another topic. Talking to your child’s teacher about strategies for handling separation anxiety can be very helpful for both you and your child. Knowing the school’s morning routine is a must so you can answer questions your child might have and you can feel confident that you know what is going on.
Like most parenting challenges, this is a great opportunity. Helping your child to grow and trust that he or she can handle situations, (in a safe environment, of course) is a huge gift to give your child. It’s a great way to set your child on that long path to self-confidence and independence. There are preschoolers who can separate with ease and college students who still can’t quite let go. Learning to separate is part personality and part practice, just like all life lessons. Finding the right tools to help your particular child will make mornings happier and calmer for the whole family. What a gift to your child, greater personal power and self-confidence.
Need some more help? Here's a link to a few articles about separation anxiety from Parents Magazine.