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Separation anxiety affects child, parents

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Separation anxiety may affect both U.S. children and their parents on the first day of school, a professor of counseling says.

Samuel T. Gladding, professor of counseling at Wake Forest University and author of the book "Family Therapy," says not being well-prepared for the separation makes anxiety worse.

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Gladding offers parents tips for how to avoid emotional scenes with children clinging tearfully to them when it is time to say goodbye at the classroom door:

-- Role play with the child on leaving and returning before the big day arrives.

-- Long before school starts, encourage more social children to include your child in their play and provide reinforcement for getting involved in activities.

-- Use pretend exercises. The parent asks the child to pretend how a child Superman or Wonder Woman would act when going to school.

-- Introduce the child to teachers and other children in the class to help him feel more secure in the new environment.

-- If parents are feeling anxious, avoid communicating this distress to the child. Parents can use the pretend technique, too.

-- As a parent, model appropriate first-day behavior and get the child to imitate the model behavior.

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