Separation Anxiety

Children struggling with separation anxiety often complain of headaches and stomachaches.

Understanding the reason behind what is causing them to be anxious and establishing coping techniques is important.


Sometimes I get really scared about being away from someone I care about. Does this ever happen to you?

Sometimes I think I would just feel better if I could stay in my house.

You know what makes me feel better? Taking something with me that reminds me of my home.

Does this sound like your child?


What is the best thing to do when your child starts to struggle with separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety can be difficult to deal with. It can often happen at the worst times (when you’re late for work or school).

The key is to stay calm and consistent. Children pick up on their parents anxiety. If your anxiety is high, you’re sending them a clear message they should be anxious too!

This is not the time to punish them for being afraid, their fear is real. Comfort and reassurance that you will be there when they come back is the best approach.

How can you help a child struggling with separation anxiety?

☻ Take some time to understand if there is a reason behind what’s causing your child to be anxious. A recent change? A difficult situation they are trying to avoid? Is something making them nervous?
☻ Go over the day/routine before you go. Talk about what will happen and review everybody’s role ( I am going to work, you will be going to school…)
☻ Build a team approach. Reach out to teachers, caregivers or family members for help. Be open that your child is struggling and work with them to help your child feel supported.
☻ Keep your promise! Do and say what you said you would.

Sneaking away when your child doesn’t notice is NOT an effective exit strategy and might increase your child’s separation anxiety.

Watch this video on Separation Anxiety

Think about some strategies you and your child can try to help them manage separation anxiety.

When emotions start to escalate, how can you turn this situation around?

☻ Recognize you are getting frustrated
☻ Validate how your child is feeling
☻ Acknowledge your child is having a hard time
☻ Engage your child in finding a solution so everyone’s needs are met

Send a note or a special toy they can turn to for comfort when they are away from their family

Creating a Plan

  • Creating a plan helps you and your child work together to manage big feelings in the future.
  • Print off the plan on the kids page (The back to school plan) and come up with a plan together.
  • Take the plan with you ( print off or on your phone) so you can remember what you need to do when emotions start to rise. Don’t forget to bring Poppy for some extra support!

You can use this plan to explain to family, friends or care givers how you and your child are working together to overcome big feelings. Use it to communicate to your child’s school or family doctor too!

Things to remember when building a plan:

  • Prep: Go over the day/event. What is expected? What will you do? What do you need your child to do? What can you both do together?
  • Print off the plan and take it with you so everyone remembers what they need to do.
  • What are the important things to remember? The key parts of the plan?
  • Determine the tough point. When does it get difficult? What are we going to do when that happens?
  • Yes to success! Maybe next time? What do we need to do differently, or do we just need practice? Even the best plans need practice sometimes!

The Plan (example)

Working together to:

Go to school and work

What happened?

Prep- what will today look like:

  • We will get up, have breakfast, and get ready for school and work
  • We go to schoolBefore lining up at school, we say goodbye
  • If the worries start, we will take a couple of minutes together
  • If they continue, we will seek out the teacher. They will come out to meet us
  • We will review the after school plan

School Plan

What do I need to do?

Parent- what will be my role in this plan:

  • Review the plan with child in the morning
  • This would be a good time for questions
  • Reassurance and understanding
  • Plan for extra time in case worries start
  • Prepare for stomachaches and headaches that might arise due to anxiety

March 18. 2024

How can they help?

Child- What will my role be in this plan:

  • Get ready for school
  • Talk openly about concerns
  • Listen to the plan, make sure you understand
  • Take a comfort toy in case the worries come

Send a note or a special toy they can turn to for comfort when they are away from their family

Now It’s your turn!

  • Don’t forget to collaborate with your child and validate their feelings
  • Go to the kids page and help your child work through the activities in the Wendel library #7 << The back to school plan >>
This is your chance to work with your child to come up with a plan for next time. Work through the activities on this kids page together. They have been designed to help you start a conversation. Come up with a plan that works for everyone.

The important thing is you are trying and you’re working together.