Overcoming Separation Anxiety At School Drop Off

school separation anxietyIf you’ve got a child just starting school there are no doubt a number of anxious moments ahead. For everyone.  Not only will you be wondering where the years have gone and find yourself reaching for a tissue or two when your gorgeous child dons a uniform for the first time but the first day drop off is going to be tough for you, and them.

Some children find the transition far more emotional than others.  As parents we can play a large role in how they manage. Whilst we can achieve a lot before day one arrives, the ability to overcome separation anxiety at school drop off can pave the way for a successful day for everyone.

Orientation or Transition Sessions

Many schools offer orientation sessions or even a transition program, which provide children the opportunity to attend school for short periods prior to the commencement of the school year.  These sessions help with familiarisation of the classrooms, their new classmates and teachers and are a wonderful way to introduce kids to the types of things they will be doing.

If your school offers these, take advantage of them.

Be A Role Model

Children are very receptive to our feelings and can pick up on our mood very easily.  Whilst we need to be ‘real’’ if we let our own anxieties or sadness show, our child will know. Be strong, and be happy! Even if your heart is breaking.

Open Discussions

If your child is at pre-school, there will no doubt be discussions underway about what to expect at school.  If not, it is a good idea to casually start talking to your child about your memories (stick to the fun parts), and let them know how much they will enjoy it.

Discuss the kinds of things they will learn, talk about their play times and lunch and how they will make some special friends.  If you are finding it hard to get the right words, pick up a couple of picture books, which tell he story of starting school.


If your child requires a uniform, get them involved when you go shopping to buy it.  The same goes for their school bag, drink bottle and lunch box.  Buying special new things will go a long way to helping build excitement.

Fear Is Real

There is no doubt that fear is real and if your child does express any concerns, the most important thing is not to disregard them. Consult with their pre-school teachers, as they will have a number of techniques to help you and give you ways to respond in particular situation.

The Drop Off

When it comes to time for the drop off, take the lead of the schoolteacher.  Most likely there will be an opportunity to go into the classroom to settle your child and then the teacher will indicate for you to leave. Don’t try to sneak away without saying goodbye.   It is essential that your child knows you are going and most importantly reassure them that you will be back at a particular time to collect them again.

If your child is noticeably upset you can always stay a little longer however no doubt the teacher, or a helper, with more than enough techniques up their sleeve will be by your side to take over.  What we, as parents don’t see, is just how fast a child typically turns around once we have gone.   We are the ones leaving with a heavy heart and they are happily playing.

For children experiencing tears and anxiety at drop off time, consider is it a general problem of anxiety at school or more the case of difficulty separating from Mum (or Dad)?  If separation from one parent is the problem then consider making short term arrangements for the other parent to assume drop off responsibility.  A short period with an alternative drop off person can work to break the anxiety cycle for some children.


Emma Marks

Founder at Mum's Lounge
Emma Marks is a mother of 5 and chief editor and founder at Mums Lounge and Go Ask Mum.

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