Does your child suffer from separation anxiety?
Originally published for ContentKids Magazine, September 2014
Sitting in the car balling your eyes out after leaving your screaming child in care is
I’ve walked out of childcare with tears many times, driven to work through a haze of tears, and walked into work with blotchy eyes, but once I get that emotion out, and put my mind on what needs to be done, I’m okay. And it’s exactly the same for them.
If separation anxiety is topical for you now this list can help you through it and build up the resilience to change your child is working towards.
- Create a goodbye ritual
: Keeping your drop off consistent helps children
realisethat there will be a goodbye. The ritual creates stability. Settle them down with an activity, engage with the same carer, give a kiss and a cuddle and say goodbye.
- Keep it short:
We all know that delaying the inevitable often makes a rod for our back. It encourages clingy behavior, and harsh as it may sound, the longer you stay one day, the longer they will expect you to stay the next time.
- Reassure them, but don’t give in:
Talk to them about their worry and reassure them that you love them, they will be okay, and that you will collect them at the end of the day. Validate their emotions “It’s okay to be sad and worried”, rather than avoiding them or denying them. Talk about how their sadness is a sign of how much they love you, and that you miss them and love them too.
You can remind them that they were so brave last time, and still managed to have a great day – use whatever evidence you have to remind them that they will be okay.
- Stay calm:
It is so distressing when they are upset and you can’t be there to calm them down, but if they see you are upset it will confirm their worries, and encourage that behavior. If you need to cry, do it in the car – we’ve all done it! Staying calm and strong will stand you in good stead for future years too!
- If all else fails – distract!
Distraction works a treat. I know that once I’m gone they are fine, especially when they have something fun to do. Your presence is just reminding them of the goodbye, and the distraction releases that and helps them move on to the next thing.
- Trust yourself : Mother’s guilt law says that whenever they are so upset you question your decision to do it in the first place. Trust yourself and trust the decisions that you made. Remember that you are wiser than a toddler and know that in the long run your decision was based on your whole family’s future. It is a part of the development that can’t be avoided forever – you can do it and so can they.