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Please Don't Go: Alleviating Separation Anxiety

By Dr. Charles Sophy
Keep 'Em Off My Couch

As school winds down does your child wind up?

The separation process can be difficult for all involved. Separation anxiety is the conflicting feelings that children have when they part from the person or people to whom they are most attached. At the end of the school year, many children experience anxiety when saying goodbye to teachers and classmates. Many experience it again at the end of the summer when it's time to go back to school.

Separation anxiety is a normal process in a child's development. It is a process that requires open communication, as well as, self-awareness. The process will be successful if several key points are addressed.

Here are some simple Do's and Don'ts to help alleviate your child's end-of-school (and back-to-school) anxiety and help them (and you) enjoy a much happier summer.


. Know yourself: Examine your thoughts and feelings about the separation process.

. Know your child: Ask questions, find out his or her thoughts, feelings about the end (or beginning) of the school year, as well as the meanings of communication.

. Intervene Early: Don't wait until the last day of school or the last day of summer. Address significant and/or consistent behavior changes.

. Follow-through: Say what you mean and mean what you say.

. Communicate: Communication is key. Talk with teachers, listen, learn, and, most of all, be open

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. Ignore your own feelings: Separation is difficult. Don't stifle or undervalue your feelings in favor of your child's.

. Ignore your child's feelings: Your child may display feelings of anxiety or sadness. Don't ignore or devalue their feelings about the separation process

. Give in or give up: Clarify the conflicts and work out a resolution. Don't give in to the "I'm not going to summer camp" or "I'm not going to school" threats.

. Underestimate impact effects of change: Children are creatures of routine. Your child has been following a set routine for the entire school year. Don't underestimate the effect that summer holidays, illnesses, vacations, and deaths can have on a child's routines.

. Forget about age appropriate behavior: Don't expect your child to exhibit adult behaviors when dealing with their anxieties. And don't tolerate any age inappropriate behavior (such as when your nine year old starts talking like a toddler!).

When to reach out

Keep an eye out for the following signs that your child may be experiencing separation anxiety. Most separation anxiety can be solved by increased communication with your child.

. Increased closeness at home etc.

. Increased irritability and/or tantrums

. Decreased desire to socialize

. Changes in sleep

. Changes in appetite

Remember: You are the expert when it comes to your family and child. If you have a concern, trust your instinct and find someone trained to help you. Discuss your concerns with friends and family, too. You don't need to worry alone!

© Dr. Charles Sophy
Dr. Charles Sophy, author of the "Keep `Em Off My Couch" blog, provides real simple answers for solving life's biggest problems. He specializes in improving the mental health of children. To contact Dr. Sophy, visit his blog at


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