Helping your kids deal with separation anxiety this fall
Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

After a long, trying, and chaotic year, things are (slowly) getting back to normal. Malls are open. Restaurants are welcoming customers again — with many serving up hope alongside hors d'oeuvres — and employees across the country are returning to the office. This fall, our children will go back to school. But this return to "normal" is affecting the youngest members of our society in ways few expected. Case in point: Many children are struggling with separation anxiety, or an extraordinary fear of being separated from their parents or caretaker[s].

"All children and teens experience anxiety," Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York, tells Upworthy. "It is a normative process of development... [however,] there has been an uptick in separation-related anxiety due to the pandemic."



"Separation anxiety is when a child becomes fearful or worried when they are separated from their parent or caretaker," Ben Barer — a licensed clinical social worker — adds. "The feelings that are commonly felt include excessive worry, nervousness, sadness, and loneliness."

Of course, the response is — in many ways — unsurprising. Most children have been living under one roof for 17 months. They lacked structure, traditional schooling, playdates, and (in some cases) socialization and friends. Mommy and Daddy were all they knew. But as schools across the nation open their doors, and teachers welcome children back to class, fear is rising: fear of COVID, socialization, progress, and being alone.


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"Separation anxiety happens when someone becomes co-dependent on another person and becomes excessively nervous when they are not within their presence," Jacqueline P. Wight, the director of mental health at DotCom Therapy, tells Parade. "It is common in children with their parents/caregivers and is known to become increasingly worse during times of stress." Like now. The pandemic has been a major stressor for parents and children alike.

So how can you cope with separation anxiety? How can you help your child get a handle on their fears — and manage stress? According to Barer, there are numerous things you can do to ease your child back into a "normal" routine.

"Depending on the child's age, there are several helpful strategies that can be implemented at the time of separation so the child will be able to cope better with his or her feelings," Barer says. "For example, if your toddler is starting daycare, visiting the daycare beforehand and doing a tour of the facility can be helpful for the toddler, as this will not be an entirely new experience for them when they get dropped off. If your child is around elementary age, having discussions about what drop off might look like, what feelings the child might feel when being separated, and even parents sharing their own feelings can be reassuring for the child. It helps them learn that feelings of worry and nervousness are completely normal. And teens can benefit from conversations like this, too."

"Talking to your child and providing them with encouragement and support is imperative," Romanoff adds — regardless of their age.


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Of course, there are other things you should do, too.

"Develop a routine for saying goodbye to your child," Wight suggests. "This will look different for each child, but think of special, loving ways to say goodbye when you will be separated. Be honest with your child about the plan. If you're picking them up at the end of the school day, say it. With the best of intentions, parents and caregivers might be inclined to share a plan that is easier for the child to hear, but not necessarily the truth. However, honesty is best. If your child is experiencing anxiety about returning to school, be sure that your child socializes with friends beforehand in order to ease the transition. If there is a specific situation that causes the anxiety (ex. school drop off), get lots of practice in advance." And prepare them now for "alone time," i.e. it's necessary to expose your child to being separated from you.

"It's always best to take small steps at first," Wight explains. "Identify an adult that the child feels most comfortable with and have that adult watch the child for a short amount of time. If that goes well, slowly increase the amount of time. If there are one or two friends that your child is most eager to see, set up a time for them to play/hang out when you will not be present. Make it a time-limited activity and share the plan with the child so that they know what to expect. And if, at any point, the child struggles with an experience, consider trying that experience again with some more preparation, problem-solving, etc. prior to moving on to new experiences." In short, take things easily. Slowly. Baby steps.


That said, while parents and caregivers can approach this issue with the best of intentions and the best (and most thorough) of plans, sometimes children need more. Parental support isn't always enough, especially in cases of anxiety — when you're dealing with the effects of a mental health. If you feel your child isn't responding to the aforementioned suggestions as you would like and/or if they are still experiencing extreme feelings of nervousness, apprehension, sadness, or fear, you may want to reach out for additional support.

"Parents do not need to wait until their child's struggle feels like a crisis to get help," Wight explains. "In fact, it's actually best to proactively seek support. And while parents know their children best, there are qualified and thoughtful professionals that can help parents and their children navigate through challenging situations."

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Images from Denver Animal Shelter's Facebook page.

Imagine rummaging through secondhand finds in your local thrift store, only to find that some items include a bonus feline at no extra charge.

Montequlla the orange tabby had somehow not gotten the memo that he and his family were moving. As they dropped off furniture, including a big recliner chair, to the Denver Arc Thrift Store on New Year’s Eve, they had no idea that poor little Montequlla was tucked away inside.

Luckily, the staff began to notice the chair meowing.

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"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) and actor Peter Dinklage.

On Tuesday, Upworthy reported that actor Peter Dinklage was unhappy with Disney’s decision to move forward with a live-action version of “Snow White and the Seven Drawfs” starring Rachel Zegler.

Dinklage praised Disney’s inclusive casting of the “West Side Story” actress, whose mother is of Colombian descent, but pointed out that, at the same time, the company was making a film that promotes damaging stereotypes about people with dwarfism.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast.

"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.”

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