How to Help Kids Overcome Separation Anxiety

Ever find yourself standing outside the room...trying to convince a child to let go of mom and come inside?

Ever find yourself trying to help a new child who is standing shyly in the corner get acclimated to the environment?

Ever find yourself trying to console a child who is crying for his or or her parents?

Trying to help kids overcome separation anxiety is a challenge we all face.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 1 out of every 8 kids deal with social anxiety.  Some of the ways it is manifested is when children refuse to talk, when children refuse to detach from their parents or when children respond to social situations by throwing a temper tantrum.

So how can you help kids overcome social anxiety?

Make it a concerted joint effort with parents.  It is crucial to involve the parents.  As stated many times, the anxiety will be manifested when the parents are present.  Work with the parents to help the child detach.  One way to do this is to try a gradual detachment.  Invite the parent to stay in the classroom until the child's anxiety diminishes.

Encourage participation.  Encouraging the child to engage in a social situation can help them overcome the anxiety.  Encourage the child to get involved in an activity with kids in the room.  An example would be inviting a preschooler to come in the room and play blocks with other children.  Another example would be inviting an elementary student to get involved in a game other kids are playing.  One word of caution, this should be done only when the children is ready or it can cause their anxiety to escalate.

Provide clear instructions.  Kids with social anxiety normally have an intense fear of failure and are pleasers.  They want to follow all rules and directions to the T.  You can help them by providing very clear instructions and expectations.

Connect them with another child who can help them.  Steer the child away from children who are distracting or rowdy.  Place them with children who are friendly and easy-going.  Some children are naturally gifted to put other kids at ease.  Know who those kids are and direct the child who is having anxiety toward them.

Find out what they like to do.  Ask them what they enjoy doing in the classroom and get them involved.  Is it crafts?  Games?  Coloring?  Reading?  Offering the child the opportunity to do something they are good at will give them confidence and help diminish the anxiety they are feeling.

What are some other things you do to help kids who experience separation anxiety?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.