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back to school separation anxiety

The first time your child starts school or changes to a new classroom may cause fear, anxiety or sadness for the entire family. After all, change is never easy. However, it's important to remember that separation anxiety is a normal part of child development, especially in times of change. Some anxiety about starting school is to be expected—in fact, it's one of the few things about the start of the 2020 school year that remains the same.

It's important to remember that a positive partnership between you and your child's school can greatly support the transition and ease anxiety. Communicating regularly about your child with their teacher allows for children and families to feel connected to one another and builds trust.

As you prepare to drop off your child at school, try these strategies to help your child (and you) cope with separation anxiety:

Before school starts:

1. Visit the school together.

Even if the pandemic has changed the usual orientation process at your child's school, you can still walk or drive together to the school building and talk about the playground, the entrance and where the classrooms are. Getting both of you familiar with their new environment will help to ease the anxiety of the unknown. Plus, it just might get your child excited to attend.

2. Involve your child in the process.

This is especially crucial if they're transitioning schools. They might be anxious about starting the school year at a new school or program, and if they have some sense of control in the change, this may ease their worries. A great way to facilitate involvement is to let your child choose their back to school items like a backpack, lunch box, water bottle and pencil case.

3. Address your own anxiety.

Talk with your spouse, a friend or a current parent at the school your child is attending to get a feel for what to expect. And, feel free to speak with teachers at the school and other parents in your child's classroom so you're able to become more familiar with the new place.

4. Understand the process of dropping off and picking up.

Drop-off and pick-up can be a bit stressful since there are new processes to get used to. Ask ahead of time to see if there are any specifics to it—where do parents gather to pick up their littles? Do you need a name tag for your car? Get everything set up so you're ready to go on the first day.

5. Involve your child in establishing routines and stick to them.

It's important to stick to a daily routine, prior to the start of the school year, so that children know that even though there may be some changes, they will know what to expect.

Try things like: picking outfits for school the night before, helping to pack snacks or lunch and setting a bedtime and wake up routine. It might take a little time to get into a good routine that works for everyone, but collaborating with your child will simplify the process.

6. Discuss what your child's day at school may look like.

Most of the time, kids are a little nervous because they're not sure what to expect. Grab their rubric or syllabus and walk them through what might happen each day. Highlight the fun times, like play time outdoors or music class.

7. Validate your child's concerns.

Changes are scary, and while children are resilient, you should still validate that their anxiety is real. Model for them that you have some of those feelings as well, share with them stories where you had to go through changes (at work, in a new role, etc.). Make them feel heard.

8. Read books.

Some favorites are The Kissing Hand, Owl Babies or I Love You All Day Long.

During morning drop off:

  • Inform your child that you will not be staying in the classroom and you will return.
  • Remain calm and confident.
  • Praise your child for their efforts.
  • Be one of the first parents to drop-off.
  • Develop a special goodbye routine, such as a special handshake, wave or high-five.

At the end of the day:

  • Be one of the first to pick-up.
  • Review classroom work or pictures together.
  • Talk about their day and be specific ("Did you use the slide today?" "Tell me, what did you enjoy during art time today?").
  • Reciprocate by talking about your day and experiences, too.

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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