Today we’re bringing you Part 2 of our two part series on Back to School Tips thanks to Elise Wald, Clinical Psychologist and Jo Harris, Play Therapist and our friends at Kimochis… Toys with Feelings Inside®.
Is it normal for parents to experience separation anxiety and what would your advice be to parents?
Yes, absolutely. The best advice would be to anticipate this anxiety and put in place some support strategies to help you to deal with your own anxiety. Most importantly, keep communication with your child concise and clear – even if you feel nervous or stressed, try to maintain a matter of fact approach to school. Show a confident demeanor about your child attending school and be positive that they will have a great day. Nevertheless, it’s important to validate your child’s feelings and to acknowledge that everyone feels a little worried at times.
Is separation anxiety an indicator that a child isn’t ready for school?
Not necessarily. It’s entirely dependent on the individual child and their ability to cope with, and manage their emotions. If your child hasn’t settled after the first hour following school drop off, and if the problem is persisting beyond the first four weeks of term, this may be a sign that they are not yet ready for the demands of school. This will be particularly evident when they find it difficult to effectively engage and participate in school.
It’s important to note that effective intervention either prior to, or during the initial period of transition may help your child move past this quite quickly and settle down. It’s imperative that you assess your child’s behaviour in the context of what’s happening in their lives generally and outside of school – it may well be another issue that’s affecting their ability to settle at school. Remember you’re the expert when it comes to your child and if you feel that there’s something going on, then seek assistance.
How long can a parent expect separation anxiety to last, and when might professional help be required (if at all?)
For kinder children, they can usually be expected to settle within the first two weeks of kinder. Children beginning prep can usually expect to settle into a comfortable routine within one month of starting school. For children who are not settling within these periods, parents should initially speak to the teacher to work out a plan that will assist the child. If this doesn’t work, parents should consider speaking to a professional.
Elise Wald, MA Psych (Health) MAPS, Clinical Psychologist
Elise has a passion for developing strengths and motivating others. She is particularly interested in the field of mindfulness and wellbeing. Her special interests are adjustment and behavioural change, self-esteem, emotional intelligence and sleep psychology. She works eclectically drawing on CBT, mindfulness and positive psychology. Elise works with children, adolescents and adults. Elise also conducts training for practitioners in social emotional learning using the Kimochis system, sleep therapy and change coaching.
Jo Harris, BA Childhood Studies Play Therapy, Play Therapist
Jo is a qualified early childhood practitioner with over 15 years experience working with children as a kindergarten teacher and director in Melbourne, the United Kingdom and Belgium. Jo has a special interest in supporting young children in their emotional development, with a passion for developing a love of learning and discovery through play. Jo is a member of Play Therapy International and Play Therapy Australasia.