I don't want to go to school. It's boring. I want to stay home with you. Please can I just have a day off? I hate school. I'm not going.
You have may heard these lines, or some variation, when your child walked out the door for the first (or even the second) day of school. For most children, the complaints wane as the year goes on. Even kids that don't love school will fall into a routine and accept that school is just a part of life.
That doesn't happen for every child, unfortunately. If your child's pleading continues past the first few weeks of school, involves tantrumming behavior or tears, and doesn't seem to be improving, what can you do to help? Is this back-to-school anxiety indicative of a larger problem?
Don't get upset. Stay positive.
Whether your child is upset because of separation anxiety, stress, or even a little bit of manipulation, letting him or her see you upset will only make the situation worse. If you are upset, try to hide it as best you can. Remain upbeat, confident, and relaxed about school. This is not a reflection on you as a parent-some children just have a more difficult time transitioning to school than others.
Unless your child's teacher advises otherwise, it's best to make a clean break at drop-off. Going inside might be alright for the first day of school, but beyond that it could make it more difficult for your child to get into a routine.
Can your spouse assist with drop-off? My husband has taken my older daughter to school so that I can devote extra time to my middle child for the kindergarten drop-off. Is it possible for a neighbor to walk the kids to the bus stop? What about a teenage babysitter in the neighborhood? Anything that you can do to make the process of getting out the door to school more fun could work wonders.
Stay in contact with your child's teacher.
Talk to your child's teacher via phone or email when this behavior goes on past the first few weeks of school. He or she will be able to give you an idea of how your child is doing once the school day begins. With any luck, the anxiety diminishes rapidly once you depart and the day gets underway. If not, the teacher may want you to touch base with the school counselor to do some problem-solving.
Have you had to manage a difficult transition back to school with one of your children? How did you cope?
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