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Back To School And Separation Anxiety

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Our youngest son is 4 years old. He is returning for his second year at the preschool that all our boys have attended.

Even when he didn’t have classes, he got in the routine of being there when his brother had preschool classes.

Every fall, the school is filled with the familiar faces of returning families along with new faces of parents that are just starting at the school with their children.

When school starts, you can count on some separation anxiety.

Our school, Desert Sun Child Development Center, always provides helpful information on how to handle this transition. In my experience, the best advice was to tell your child when you are leaving (Never sneak out!) and GO when you say you are going to.

Remind them that they are safe and believe it when you say it. Even if I had to leave my son crying, I could send another parent into the classroom to check on him five minutes later and he was always fine, and usually playing happily with friends.

As comfortable as we are at the school, however, every new year I prepare myself. There is a good chance that there will be crying.

I only hope that I can make it to the parking lot before my tears start to fall.

The first day of school arrives for my 4 year old. I hold my son’s hand as we cross the parking lot. His backpack moves from side to side across his back as he walks.

We chat about what his new room will look like and which friends will be in his class. I am suddenly overwhelmed as I look down towards my tiny baby that has turned into a little boy right before my eyes.

He answers my questions with words like “probably,” and “all signs point to yes.” (His brother recently got a new Magic Eight Ball.)

Before I can say something really sentimental to him, he drops my hand and races to a friend that he sees. I am left standing with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I watch his checkered Vans racing his friend to the front gate.

It’s not that I am not looking forward to having all three boys in school. I welcome the few hours alone that I will have to start projects around the house, catch up with friends, focus on work or do anything that I want.

But somehow, as I watch my youngest son start the year that I know will be our last year at this preschool, the ache in my heart overpowers what I thought would be my Braveheart moment (driving away with the windows down, yelling “Freedom!” )

Once at the classroom, we follow all directions, sign in and put away his backpack and water bottle. I follow my son inside where I greet his teacher and he quickly finds something interesting to play with.

I stall for a minute before walking over to say goodbye. He is so busy playing that he barely looks away from the colorful toys as he mutters, “Bye Mom.”

And that’s it. No hug. No crying. No clamping onto my leg as I try to leave.

The walk back to the car seems lonelier than the cheerful walk in. I remind myself how happy I am that he feels comfortable and loves his school.

But my heart breaks as I remember how he almost forgot to say goodbye to me.
I am not ready to not be needed.

Sometimes separation anxiety affects the parent more than the child.

Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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