Archive of ‘Back to School’ category

Separation Anxiety for Children and Parents – Back to School

The morning is going just as you had planned, but you know what is coming when you drop your child off at school…crying, hugging desperately onto you as you attempt to leave, teachers and other children trying to comfort your child, and then, your child being pulled away, screaming as you painfully gather yourself up and leave, reminding yourself that you are doing what is best for your child.

For many parents, the return to school can bring up the worry and stress of this daily exercise. Separation anxiety is hard on both children and parents. Some preparation and planning can make getting through this challenging situation a little easier.

Blog by: Kirby Sandlin, LPC, LMFT

By: Kirby Sandlin, LPC, LMFT

As a children’s therapist, I would first suggest that you start talking with your child about school and what it will look like, be like, and what happens throughout the day from drop-off to pick-up before school ever starts. Allow time for your kids to ask questions about anything from the environment to who will be there to the daily schedule.

Secondly, you might consider showing your child pictures or, if possible, go for a fun visit of the school a few weeks before starting. At this visit, walk around looking at drop-off areas, bathrooms, classrooms, playgrounds, etc. Everyone, even adults, get a little anxious when they don’t know what to expect. The fun pre-start visit can put some of that nervous energy to rest.

My next suggestion is that you read books with your children about starting school and possible feelings that might come up about it. Please check out these 7 books to ease separation anxiety. At this point, you can talk about your own experience with starting something new and how you felt.

Many parents and children also find it helpful to come up with a morning routine plan for school days. You can check out the Austin Family Counseling Blog for more information on morning routines. Once your family has a planned routine, practice it a few times before the first official day.

Finally, when your child is struggling with separation anxiety, I suggest that you get down on your child’s level, do your best to remain clam, loving, and soothing, and share with your child the feeling that you notice them experiencing and then state your expectation/goal for them. (Ex. I can tell that you are a little scared and upset about going to school today. However, we planned and practiced, and I trust and know you can and will be successful with this new routine. I love you and will see you at the end of the day!) Once you have comforted (hugged) your child and made this statement, try to make a quick exit.

The support, trust, preparation, and love will stay with your child. As for dealing with the feelings that you as the parent are experiencing, try to remember that your child is scared and not trying to annoy you. Also, remember you are teaching great long-term skills to your child by having trust and confidence in their abilities.

Separation anxiety is a challenge and can be both frustrating and heart-breaking at the same time; these suggestions will hopefully make separating for the day a little less challenging as school starts this fall.

Have a GREAT start and school year!


Back to School – The Morning Hustle

If you are like me, school day mornings feel like a mad dash to the finish line of getting everyone where they need to go. A good day is when no one is in tears and everyone has clothes on (pajamas count!). By the time I get myself to work I am often exhausted, annoyed, and my hair is a hot mess.

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

But last year, I tried a truly revolutionary practice to help with my mornings with the kids (mine are now 4 and 2), and today I want to share it with you as we gear up to use it again this fall. Please know that this practice takes time and planning, but with your efforts (and your family’s effort) it has a big pay off!

Positive Discipline suggests creating a MORNING ROUTINE CHART for (and with) your kiddos. Here’s one way to roll it out:

  • Gather needed supplies: camera or smart phone, poster board, glue, scissors, stickers, markers, and any other art/decorating materials.
  • Plan a family meeting time with all members present and an hour or so of open time.
  • Start by asking your kids, “Would you be willing to help us come up with a way to make mornings fun and easy?” Then create a list of things that need to get done before leaving in the morning (let your kids create this list, and chime in only at the end to add in anything they may have left out – you might say, “What about brushing our teeth? Should that be on the list?”)
  • Once you have your list, have fun “pretending” to do all the things on the list, and take a picture of each one.
  • Print out or develop your pictures (you might need to do these next steps at a different time, depending on the age and attention span of your family).
  • Spend time creating a Morning Routine Chart. Glue the pictures on and decorate the chart – let your kids lead this part too. (Special note: Don’t make the same mistake I did the first time and try to push your agenda and/or your crafting abilities on the chart – this is their chart and they will have much more buy in if it is their creation).
  • Use the Routine Chart as the “boss” – ask kids questions like, “What’s next on our morning routine chart?” or “What do you want to do next on the chart?” – instead of nagging.
  • Try several “practice runs” before school starts to get ready. If you realize you need to add something, this will give you time.
  • Go back and evaluate your routine chart regularly with your kids – how is this working? What do we want to add or take away?
  • Go HERE to read more about different versions of routine charts.

Enjoy! And have a wonderful school year.


Family Time in the School Year

girl swinging pic

It seems like the middle of summer but the next school year is right around the corner. As you stock up on pencils, paper and other supplies, it is a good time to set family goals and have important conversations about finding balance this year.

School often brings with it extracurricular activities, homework, endless laundry, and large to do lists. It is easy for family time to be replaced with children playing sports, studying, and attending birthday parties and other social events while parents hustle to run errands, keep up with housework and their career, and shuttle their kids from place to place.

Because there are only so many hours in a day, something has to give. And all too often, it is family time together. Uninterrupted, device-less, quality time is a precious commodity these days. But maybe this year, you and your family can be intentional about making it a necessity.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider it:

  • Children whose parents are involved are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and are more likely to do better in school.
  • Families are better able to adapt to challenging situations if they are emotionally close.
  • Children whose mother communicates frequently with them (listening, answering questions, and talking) are more likely to perform well academically.
  • Children whose father spends time with them doing activities tend to have better academic success, as well.
  • Adolescents whose parents are involved in their lives tend to exhibit fewer behavioral problems.
  • Youth who participate in activities with their parents and have close relationships with them are less likely to engage in violence.
  • Eating dinner together frequenting reduces the risk of substance abuse for teens.
  • Adolescents whose parents are home with them after school and during the evening hours are less likely to experience emotional distress.

Spending time together doesn’t have to be costly or elaborate. Often, it is more about the frequency of checking in, talking with one another, eating meals together, playing games or playing outside with one another, and other low-stress activities that help family members bond the most. Now is a good time, before it all begins again, to sit down and talk about setting up regular rituals and routines for connecting with one another and committing to make family time a priority this year.


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