Off to school – with tears

By admin
17 January 2014

Was your child’s first day at school filled with teary goodbyes and sad faces? Our parenting blogger Meg Faure looks at school separation anxiety.

Photo: Tanya Little on Flickr

Many of us had children who started school this week and I was fascinated by the accounts of tears and anxiety. I recall well, the feeling of the lump in my throat as my little one clung to my skirt and begged me not to leave.

It’s a horrid feeling and not at all uncommon in toddlers and preschoolers. I am not sure who suffers most – mom or child.

Here’s my take on school separation anxiety:

Mom’s role

My gut says mom plays a greater role in separation anxiety than one would think. I believe we may give a subtle message to our little one in the days leading up to the event. On the morning of going to school, you may have looked anxious or made one too many brittle cheerful comments – your preschooler sees straight through that, of course. I think the fact that first-borns seem to suffer more than subsequent children speaks to this aspect of first-day separation anxiety – the next time round it just is easier for mom.


Do boys suffer more than girls or was that just my experience? My girls skipped off to school – loving the social element from day one. My first-born (yup I was partly to blame) – a son, was a different story. I think boys just take a little longer to settle away from mom.


When you are ready, you are ready.  Pushing your 18-month-old off to school if you don’t have to may not be the best approach, especially if he is a little anxious. Kids do cope better when they are a little older and ready.


Without question, the fact that some kids get it worse than others has nothing to do with mom, age or gender – it’s simply their personality. In Your Sensory Baby (DK, 2011), I look at the four sensory personalities. The slow to warm up child will take their time to adjust to a new routine, space and person. These little ones do seem to cling and anxiously approach school for many weeks, before deciding it is actually a safe space.

-  Meg

Meg is an occupational therapist with a special interest in treating fussy babies and those with sleep problems. She brought the Baby Sense brand to life in 2005 and is the owner of the company Baby Sense, for which she develops innovative baby products.

Meg co-authored the bestsellers Baby Sense and Sleep Sense with Sister Ann Richardson. She wrote Feeding Sense with dietician Kath Megaw and Dr Simon Strachan, and  Your Sensory Baby is her fourth book.

Meg has also developed a collection of innovative Baby Sense products based on her Sensible Sensory Parenting principles outlined in her books.

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