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Fall is here, which means that children are boarding buses headed to school while college students move into their dorms. While the back to school period is very exciting, it can also lead to separation anxiety for both parents and students. A new year is full of optimism and uncertainty, which means proper separation anxiety management is essential.

Parents and Children Both Experience Separation Anxiety

Countless parents bite their fingernails as they wave goodbye to their children at the bus stop and worry that they won’t find somewhere to sit at lunch, that they will forget to turn their homework in or that they’ll get a call later in the day from their child in tears. Many people don’t realize that parents often experience the same exact separation anxiety their children do as their role in their child’s day-to-day life changes.

Managing Separation Anxiety for Students

Especially when they are starting a new school or grade, students can undergo temporary or prolonged periods of separation anxiety. It can have an enormous impact on your child’s ability to learn, thrive, make new friends and succeed in school. Older students often have trouble admitting their anxiety, as it isn’t very cool to admit, but it might still linger:

  • Reassure your child that you will always be there to talk to, to pick them up when needed and to help with their problems. Many young children worry about their parents not being there to pick them up at the end of the day.
  • Talk to your child about what to expect in school. This can be especially important for students making the big change to dorm life. If they don’t feel like talking to Mom or Dad, see if they would chat with a friend who is already in college.
  • Encourage your child to make new friends, join clubs or participate in extracurricular activities. The more that they look forward to being at school, they less they will worry about what is going on at home.

Managing Separation Anxiety for Parents

Managing parental fears is essential for your mental health. If it’s hard to relax when you imagine your baby heading out into the big world alone, try some of the following tips.

  • Refocus your anxiety somewhere else. If your child moved away to go to college, take advantage of their absence to focus on yourself or your relationship with your spouse. For an authentic college experience, you could even enroll in a non-credit class at a local school on your own (just not your child’s college!).
  • Acknowledge that your child will miss you. Many parents with younger children have anxiety over whether or not their child will miss them and experience emotional periods during the school day. The answer is easy—yes! Your child will undoubtedly, at some point, be upset that you aren’t there. However, they will move on and find their place in the classroom without you, and that’s okay.
  • Know that separation does not mean rejection. Your child is growing up, which means that you will occupy a different role in their life. Separation and a change in the dynamic of your relationship does not mean rejection.

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Feeling separation anxiety as your child heads off to school? Contact CBT Baltimore to get on the right track.