Separation Anxiety Treatment - How To Get Your Children to School

Separation Anxiety Treatment - How To Get Your Children to School

Anxiety Disorders » Separation Anxiety Treatment How To Get Your Children to School

Separation Anxiety Treatment How To Get Your Children to School

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, Its Off to School We Go

What are the secrets to getting your child happily off to school? First, be aware that separation anxiety and school phobia are complex problems that may not be resolved easily. As in overcoming childhood fears in general, the more you help boost your childs self-efficacy, inner control and trust in people through empathy, information, gradual exposure, play and stories, the safer your child will feel anywhere in the world, school, summer camp, parties, grandmas house, or overnights.

Should you too suffer from separation anxiety, you need to address your- own pain in letting your child go.

Always take your childs feelings seriously. If you validate her concerns about leaving you and reassure her. I know youre afraid about going to school. But when you come home, I will be there. I will never leave you. She will trust in your availability and, when she returns and finds you at home, that what you say is dependable and reliable. This will enable her to predict your comings and goings, encouraging inner control and self-efficacy.

Give young children a personal possession like a photo, or a charm, to keep with them and turn to when feeling stressed. A favorite snack also helps. When you return, greet your child warmly, ask about her day, and remind her of your promise.

See, mommy told you she would be back, for example, You can trust me. Recognize how hard it was for her to be away from you and praise her for being in school all day.

Some children who take forever to get dressed in the morning may be tactile, defensive and greatly bothered by the feel of clothing on their skin. Some signs: demanding removal of labels in clothing and requesting loose clothing of soft material. For more information, contact the Sensory Integration Institute and see The Out-of-Sync Child, by Carol Kranowitz.

If you have a child who clings as you try to leave, you probably feel terrible, as if you are a bad mother to leave her all alone with twenty other children and a room full of toys. To help your child separate from you, work on letting yourself separate from her.

Often, it is the mothers need for the child and her own difficulty in separating that creates folk a deux, a kind of mutual delusion that can lead to an unhealthy mutual dependency. Perhaps youre in a lousy marriage and wish your child to fill in for the love youre not getting from your partner. Or perhaps you just wish to keep him mommas boy so hell never leave you. Whatever the reason, enmeshment is smothering and unhealthy. If you cant separate, you make it hard for your child to separate. Give him a hug and a shove.

With preschool children, who have a poor conception of time, describe your return in terms of their activities. When you get up from your nap, youre going to have a snack. By the time you finish your snack, mommy will come pick you up. For more information on the preschool child and negotiating separation, see Starting School, by Nancy Balaban.

Give your child as much information as possible regarding school and your whereabouts, to help him better appraise the situation. When he goes to school, let him know if you will be home when he returns and, if not, where you will be and what time you will be home. In this way, he will feel greater predictability and control over his world.

If you are having marital difficulties, discuss these problems openly. This will dampen the childs egocentric view that she is the cause of your fights with your spouse. Reassure her that you love her and that just as brothers and sisters argue, so do grownups.

If your child is afraid of something at school, probe to discover the problem and give your child some realistic solutions. Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me, has helped many a child retort to teasing. Reassure her that when she comes home she can talk to you about how much it really did hurt. If your child is being tormented by another child, talk to the school about the situation and see if arrangements can be made to minimize confrontation, like changing recess times, for example.

Introduce your child to a new school ahead of time. In this way, the first day wont seem so strange and he may even recognize a friendly face or two.

The move to middle school or junior high can be stressful and frightening for youngsters, who fear changing classes, not being in the same class as their friends, academic failure and being pressured to use drugs. They also worry about things like using combination locks and getting lost in the bigger building.

Work with your child on a fear pep talk that he can learn to tell himself when he becomes anxious. Statements like:

1. Jimmy is a nice boy and will play with me.

2. The principal smiles when he sees me.

3. I have my favorite little panda bear in my desk to touch.

4. If anyone bothers me, I will tell the teacher.

If your child will be starting a new school, prepare her ahead of time:

Talk your child through everything—what will be different, what will be the same, what the school looks like, where he will be dropped off and picked up.

Check to see if the new school offers an orientation.

If your child is afraid of going to school, expose her to school gradually.

Picturing: First have her imagine school as a positive place. Talk about all the good things that happen when you go to school.

1. You can dress up and wear pretty clothes.

2. You can giggle with your friend Susie.

3. You get to play kick ball during recess time.

4. On Wednesday, you get to eat pizza.

5. If you feel frightened, you can rub your stuffed bunny or look at mommys picture.

Walking through: Take her on a tour through school.

Staying there: Attend school with a young child and move slowly out of sight as she begins to settle in and gets comfortable—playing with a toy. sitting or playing next to other children. With the older child, spend a few minutes with her at the beginning and end of school and let her stay only as long as she can tolerate being in school without becoming unduly anxious. For some, that may be only an hour, for others half a day. And it may not be in the classroom. but in the principal or nurses office. Thats all right. At least shes in school. The next goal will be class attendance.

Finding surrogates: Drop your child off and have someone arrange to meet her. like the teacher, school counselor, principal, or nurse, and escort her to her classroom.

Increasing attendance: Gradually increase the length of time your child is able to remain at school.

The value of play as a catharsis for separation anxiety struck Sigmund Freud, following an incident with his 18-month-old grandson. After his mother left, the child took a cotton reel on the end of a string and played the double game of throwing it away with an expression of gone and pulling it back again with a joyful da. It was, Freud realized, as if he were staging his mothers disappearance and reappearance.

Books will expose your child to new experiences and solutions to problems like being teased, coping with bullies, family problems, and academic difficulties, thereby broadening his view.

1. A Child Goes to School: A Storybook for Parents and Children Together. Sara Bonnet Stein. (NY: Doubleday, 1978).

2. First Grade Jitters, Robert Quakenbush (NY: Lippincott, 1982).

3. Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Beverly Clearly. (NY: Morrow, 1981).

4. Will I Have a Friend? Miriam Cohen. (NY: Macmillan, 1976).

5. The Runaway Bunny. M.W. Brown (NY: Harper & Row, 1942).

6. Mr. Grumpys Motorcar. J. Bumingham (NY: Crowell, 1976).

8. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. B. Potter (London: Warne, 1902).

The Three Little Pigs, a classic story on the theme of separating from parents and home, is an all-time favorite and young children will ask to hear it over and over again. Like children beginning school, The Little Pigs are told to make their way. And though its hard and dangerous, hard work and cleverness win out against The Big Bad Wolf.

Encourage your children to play out in fantasy their feelings regarding separation. Provide props like mommy and daddy clothing, play cars, and school items. Playing teacher for many children is second only to playing mommy.

Just as parents need to go to work, it is the childs job to go to school. If your child persists in refusing to go to school, its time to seek professional help. Separation anxiety, which can lead to agoraphobia, and school phobia, which may be an early form of social phobia, need to be nipped in the bud when the child is still young.

Some children protest going to school primarily because they are afraid of separating from their mother.

Some children protest going to school out of fear of something at school, like bullies, being teased, harsh treatment by teachers or difficulty in school work.

One way of distinguishing the separation-anxious from the school-phobic is to ask where the child is when not in school. If he is happy to be anywhere but in school, he is school-phobic. If he insists on being at home with mother or with her nearby, he is primarily separation-anxious. The school-phobic child just wants to avoid going to school, while the separation-anxious becomes fearful and avoids a variety of situations related to the theme of separation.

Both separation anxiety and school phobia are complex problems that often require professional help to overcome.

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