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6 year old having separation anxiety. Doesn't want to go to school.

Anonymous

My child is a very happy, sociable outspoken just turned six-year-old boy. Six weeks into school he has started crying before going into school saying that he is going to miss me too much and can't go. He started getting so upset Sunday night that I told him he could have a "stay home day" just so that he would relax and sleep peacefully. It has gotten worse and refused to go this morning, so I had to bring him home with me - but then wanted to try going back just before lunch.


I can't physically make him go. But I don't feel right letting him stay home either. He told me after supper that he was afraid that this feeling would never go away because he wants to go to school.

I will try what I read in this article, but if you have any other advice please let me know!

Thank you,
Joanna

Hi Joanna

This is such a great example of how we parents can interact with our children in a way that seems to be instinctively the right thing, and actually makes kid's anxiety worse.

Your son is having some anxiety and is expressing his distress to you and as a good parent you don't want him to have to be distressed. It is counter intuitive but what parents with children who are expressing anxiety need to do is tolerate their children's discomfort and reassure their children that they can tolerate the discomfort.

There is nothing dangerous for your son at school,or for you when you are away from him, and so you must reassure him that you know he misses you and you miss him to. He can handle missing you, and you will be OK. If you allow him to stay home, you are signaling that you feel it is very distressing to go to school and reinforcing his anxiety. When you help him avoid a fear it becomes stronger, and also more likely each time he has it he will think he can't tolerate it. When you confront a fear it becomes smaller! Avoidance maintains and perpetuates all of the anxiety disorders.

Instead, Encourage him to be brave when the anxiety shows up, and integrate this with a small reward system, lots of praise for the brave going to school anyway, or ignoring the "missing you feelings" and going to school anyway. Also Tell him you have confidence in his ability, and model doing difficult things even though you have hard feelings. It might be a good idea to go ahead and schedule him a few counseling sessions if you are feeling stuck here, but you can likely both get through this! Good luck to you.

Sincerely

Kristen McClure

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