Starting school nerves: How to help your child adjust


Starting a new school is definitely a big deal, and the anxiety of being left alone in a strange environment can be very stressful for your child. They may have some separation anxiety and you need to know how to handle it, writes Sandra Buckingham. 

Separation anxiety can manifest itself in the most unnerving ways: from crying, whinging, shyness and clinginess, to full blown temper tantrums, hysteria, and even can produce psychosomatic symptoms, such as headaches, stomach aches and vomiting.

Starting a new school is definitely a big deal, and the anxiety of being left alone in a strange environment can be very stressful for your child. Most parents, however, will probably know what kind of reaction their child will have on those first days at pre-primary. If you know that your little one will have a hard time coping with the stress of being left at school, here are a few tips you might want to try before the new school year starts, to ease him/her into the pre-primary environment.

  • Once you get to the school, it is imperative that you keep it short, stay calm and leave once you've said a friendly goodbye. Kids tend to dramatize goodbyes, but it has been found that most kids act perfectly normal once mom and dad are out of sight.
  • Trust the teacher to use her years of experience to make you child feel safe and happy. If no-one is able to calm your child down, they will certainly call you back and suggest some form of therapy.
  • Be on time at the end of that first school day. Show your kid that you're going to be there at the same time at the end of every school day. The sooner they're in routine, the better it will be for everyone.
  • Just as you would have interviewed the teachers and checked out the pre-primary school of your choice, your kid should too. Prepare for the big day by visiting the school a few times before the first day. Good schools will let you bring your child and allow you to watch him play and cope with being there. Let him meet the teacher and engage with his peers.
  • Make school something to look forward to - find books and materials about the subject. Take them to pick out their lunchbox and backpack. Mark off the days with a calendar; make the event something they will look forward to.
  • Ask your child questions about how they feel about going to school. When discussing it, keep calm and make it sound like the most natural occurrence they will go through. Your reactions are of utmost importance at this time.

Of course, some kids take to pre-primary like a fish in water. They are excited to go everyday, reluctant to go home and even ask to go on the weekend! However, if your child doesn't take to it after two weeks of trying, they might have Separation Anxiety Disorder, which is a bit more serious and affects 4% of children on average. Help from a child therapist will definitely get to the root of the problem.  

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