Back to School: Parent Separation Anxiety

Parent Separation Anxiety

Nearly every parent who I speak with gets a little emotional when they reflect on their child attending school for the first time. Whether they are a working mom returning to the job after three months of maternity leave or a stay-at-home parent who is dropping off their child at preschool for the very first time – it still affects you in many ways.

Sure, we worry about how our child will acclimate and wonder if they will make friends, however, it’s important to recognize that moms and dads experience some heartache and growing pains as well.

Just know that it’s OK to feel some sort of separation anxiety as a parent.

How can we minimize parent separation anxiety?

If you’re a new mom heading back to work after maternity leave, I would speak with your KinderCare Center Director about a complimentary drop in day before you actually return to work.

I personally did that with my first baby and my husband was very sweet and sent me to a spa and…for the sake of transparency… I SOBBED uncontrollably through a pedicure staring at my phone the WHOLE time. I was ready to dash out the door in my robe in the event KinderCare’s name flashed across my phone. Thankfully the call never arrived and it gave me the courage to go to a movie after the pedicure all while my baby visited his new classroom. I can’t remember a single thing from the plot, which is fine, yet again… my eyes were glued to my phone throughout the entire film.

Still no call from KinderCare… and that was more great news.

During the movie credits, I literally ran to my car so I could pick up my boy only to find him cooing and smiling at his new teacher. It warmed my heart watching him through the glass and knowing that he was happy, content, and in a loving environment.

We both did great.

How did this exercise help?

I was able to release a flood of emotions before I returned to work so I could effectively do my job without adding stress to my family and colleagues.  It’s natural to worry and be on edge at first but once you initially get it out of your system it becomes easier.

It’s an adjustment for everyone.

Remember, your teacher and Center Director have helped many other parents just like you. Ask them for advice to help with the transition. It can be emotional and turbulent at times but you will hit your stride.

Give it time and be patient with yourself.

You’re not alone and other parents have been there before you. Reach out to them if you need reassurance and support.  It’s OK to feel this way. I still find myself getting misty eyed whenever I see a new mom dropping off her baby for the first time. I know exactly what she is going through so I always make sure I pass by with a supportive smile and a nod of encouragement.

I’m now inching closer to kindergarten with my oldest child (and I can already feel the tears burning again) but it’s OK – this feeling will pass.  I’m getting better at it and I recognize that as a mom I’m a work in progress.

There is the occasional heartache, but I recall there are many benefits with this stage. With each milestone along the way I also have the privilege of watching my children discover the universe with their teachers serving as tour guides.

Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help and be patient with yourself as both you and your family find your way.

Parents, you are not alone and you’re doing great.



  1. I sure hope it gets easier.

    • Jules, it does. I really meant that we are all works in progress and it’s important to be patient with yourself. Thanks for the comment. Traci

  2. Kathleen Harris

    Owyhee Elementary in Nampa, Idaho had a “Teacups and Tears” meet and greet for the moms to go to after dropping off their kindergartners the first day :). As a mom of 3 and KinderCare employee, I LOVE our open door policy. Parents can call in to check on their children or even drop by on their lunch break.

  3. @ Traci, I’m about to feel how u felt that first day and I hope that it gets for u. My daughter was born a SGA or small gestational age baby and I was scared to put her in day care right away after my maternity leave finished so I quit my full time work and became a Stay at Home Mom and I have to say that becoming a first time parent is HARD but it has its rewarding moments. My daughter will be 1 in September and now I feel that she is ready for daycare so that I can re-enter the workforce again. My daughter has grown up to be a handful. She has learned up to become spoiled and learned how to throw tantrums when she doesn’t get her way and I’m scared that she will irritate the daycare workers with her attitude, and being that she was an SGA child she is smaller than other 11+ months so I’m scared that she will be picked on by the other children because she is smaller than they area and as a result, she will not want to daycare. My child has only been babysat by me or her father, so she hasn’t been exposed to playing with other children yet and these are my main concerns.

    • I’m wishing your family the best during this transition! I know it’s tough especially as your little one gets used to it as well. You may want to budget extra time for drop-offs during the first week. It will help alleviate the feeling of being “rushed” so you can manage all of the emotions. Keep reminding yourself that ‘this too shall pass.’ I have a 16 month old and she is pretty willful (which I love about her)and the tantrums arrived at about 11 months. I think it’s developmental at that age for all babies. They are becoming toddlers. I wouldn’t worry about her size making her a “target.” Both of my babies were much larger for their classes and I never had reports of them picking on smaller children. In fact, there’s this adorable little girl in my daughter’s toddler class and she’s on the smaller side…she is thriving… in fact she’s my daughter’s first friend. My little girl lights up when she sees her each morning. She recently began calling out “Hiiiiiii Ammmm-lia” each time she sees her friend. It’s amazing to see how early friendships begin. I wish you well and I’m sending you a “virtual” hug during drop-off. Good luck and best wishes. Regards, Traci :)

  4. my daughter started last week and needless to say i sobbed as well.. i cried the whole 30 minutes it took to get to work, during our morning meeting at work, and called every hour to check in…not to mention i made my husband call for me when i got a sudden spurt of however the next morning while dropping off my infant, she looked at her teacher and showed her the biggest gum display iveseen in days and it definatly calmed my fear of day two. i love that when my husband comes to get her shes being held and loved.. thank you to the infant room for making this transition so much easier on my family and especially my baby girl.

    • Cindy, thank you for sharing and I’m so happy that you & your baby girl are transitioning well. Kind regards, Traci

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