Today is Labor Day, and for many kids around the nation it means that heading back to school is just around the corner, and with that comes bittersweet feelings from both parents and children alike.
First there’s the shopping; new clothes and shoes, backpacks and lunch boxes, and the seemingly endless school supply list that appears to get longer and longer every year. Next on the agenda is meeting the teacher, setting the schedules, changing from your summer routine to your school routine, and probably one of the most challenging feats a parent has to perform is, what to pack for their school lunch that they will actually eat!
Then suddenly, in the midst of this controlled chaos, comes a quiet small voice, “Mom, I don’t feel good.” You were ready for this, you knew it was only a matter of time, just which kid was it going to be this year? Sound familiar?
For some children, ending summer vacation and going back to school is not always an easy transition. It’s a time when their carefree summer ends abruptly, and now they are feeling the same familiar stress and pressure that comes with the start of each new school year.
Parents can sometimes feel like they’re on a battlefield every day just getting the kids out the door. But for some children, it can be a little more than just “school day blues”. This time of the year can also bring on symptoms of separation anxiety.
Friday’s recent article in Medical News Today stated that “most children experience some degree of apprehension and excitement as the first day of school approaches, and continued with, “upwards of 5 percent of children between the ages of 7 and 11 years old suffer from separation anxiety disorder in the United States.”
Some symptoms of separation anxiety can include: refusing to go to school, long tearful goodbyes (I personally was a master of the long tearful goodbyes), trouble sleeping and frequent physical complaints.
According to Helpguide.org separation anxiety is “a normal stage of development and occurs because a child feels unsafe in some way” and as a parent there are some things you can do to help.
1. Develop a “goodbye ritual” – this can be reassuring as will as a fun way of saying goodbye in your special way.
2. Listen and respect your child’s feelings, which helps to encourage an open dialogue.
3. Provide a consistent pattern for each day. Children function better and feel more secure when they have a routine. This includes homework, and night time rituals that can help promote a good night’s sleep for them.
With a little practice and a lot of patience you can help create a “stable and supportive environment for your child” as well yourself.