Parents Experience Separation Anxiety, Too.

As parents, we are familiar with the anxiety that some children can exhibit when they leave for camp or begin school. Sometimes, we are not as comfortable when the roles are reversed. 

You know that feeling you get when your heart starts beating uncontrollably, and a wave of fear intertwined with sadness overwhelms you? That’s called separation anxiety. 

I know I have felt apprehensive and second-guessed the decision to leave our children in the care of others.  Although it’s gotten slightly less stressful as each child in our household gets older, it’s still challenging.

I remember attempting to drop our nearly 2-year-old off into his new “big boy” classroom. Halfway down the hall, he managed to wrap his body around my leg to form what we call a toddler anchor. I managed to make it into his class, and as I was anticipating using the jaws of life to help pry him off, amazingly, he found comfort in his new teacher and seamlessly ran to her. 

At that moment, I knew I would have to switch on my lightning speed superpowers and run out of there before he changed his mind, but I found myself lingering. I felt worried. I realized I had my own fears about leaving him behind. Thankfully, I was able to go without completely breaking down in tears, but I realized that I had to come up with strategies to help cope so that my fears wouldn’t be transferred on to my child. 

Here are four strategies that I found helpful:

Leave guilt at the door.

I know this is easier said than done. We all have had times where we felt guilty about having to leave our children. This is the time to abandon those thoughts. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You may feel like you’re a horrible parent for leaving your child, but your child thinks you’re a wonderful parent. Stop being your worst enemy!

Find a familiar face.

The singular thought of a complete stranger taking care of your child can induce overwhelming worry in and of itself. Try to talk to the teacher before the first day. I found building up a rapport and relationship made those drop-offs easier.

Exchange a “lovie” with your child.

If it is allowed, leave a small token — a stuffed animal or small blanket — behind that is unique and allows the child to find their own happy place while you figure out your exit strategy. 

Own them.

Your feelings that is … Anxiety is a normal feeling for all parents. Part of this feeling makes you the amazing parent you are. Of course you want to worry about the little human you are raising.  

Breathe.

I know this sounds like an innate thing we all do, but I mean “helpful” breathing. Breathing that is purposeful, allowing you to set aside the worries and just focus. Before our drop-offs, I’d sit in the car and take two to three deep breaths.  

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The first day of anything can be nerve-wracking. So, whether you are a true veteran or this is your first-ever first-day-of-school experience, anxiety can still happen. Remember this is normal, but it doesn’t have to be the routine. Just try to apply these simple strategies each day to help you and your child have a fantastic school year! Good luck!

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