When Separation Anxiety Goes Overboard

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Lenore Skenazy is founder of the book and blog, “Free-Range Kids” which launched the anti-helicopter parenting movement.

This Wall Street Journal piece of mine about sending kids off to the first day of school applies to sending kids off to camp as well. Our hand-wringing, expert-consulting culture has managed to make saying goodbye into a much bigger and more traumatic event than it has to be, thanks to all sorts of over-the-top advice on how to help our kids adjust.


Maybe they’ll adjust as soon as we leave?

When Separation Anxiety Goes Overboard

As yellow buses start heading back to school, you might notice some of them being trailed by a little line of cars. Predators? Pervs?

Nope. Parents.

“I was talking to a bunch of parents and found out they all follow the bus for the first week or so,” one mother told me the other day. “I sat there thinking that I was a really bad mom because that thought had never even occurred to me!”

Although I am officially the World’s Worst Mom—I even have a TV show with that name—the thought had never occurred to me, either. But apparently it’s becoming par for the course as the line gradually blurs between shipping a child off to school and shipping a child off to ‘Nam.

“They can’t seem to let go,” says Natascha Santos, a school psychologist in Great Neck, N.Y., on Long Island—and she’s not talking about the kids. This could be because everywhere parents turn, the advice-o-sphere keeps harping on how incredibly hard they must work to ease their child’s incredibly harrowing adjustment to school.

“Practice how you will say goodbye,” urges one of the zillion or so websites featuring first-day-of-school tips.

“Goodbye!” Hmm. That just doesn’t seem very difficult to me. Maybe I’m heartless. In fact, I know I’m heartless, because I never bought a “Nesting Heart.” That’s a toy made by a company called Kimochis that is meant to “help ease the separation” when you drop your kid off at school.


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How does it work? “Your child can take the inner Heart to school and you can keep the outer heart at home,” says a Kimochis news release. “Create a playful ritual for separating the hearts at drop-off and putting your hearts back together at pickup. Reassure your child (and yourself!) that the Nesting Heart keeps you connected even when you are apart.”

Posted on February 24, 2013
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