Separation Anxiety: Tips from a Mom Who’s Been Through It
If you’ve had the little on bawl incessantly every time you’ve had to walk away from day care or shut the door at bedtime, you exactly know how separation anxiety can turn you inside out and the struggle is very, very real.
There is really no defined time about when and how separation anxiety occurs – it can begin as early as 4 months when their concept of ‘object permanence’ kicks in and can continue well into first day at school.
Here are a few tips to help ease the transition –
Tell them that you are leaving,even if it’s for a short while
It always seems like a more peaceful idea to just sneak out while they are not watching – you might be lucky couple of times but incase you do get caught – all hell can break loose. The child will constantly associate every single action of yours – from putting on your shoes or picking up your handbag, they will worry that you will disappear.Let your child know when you’ll be back and what will happen then.It is a much better idea to tell them that you are leaving, and build up both confidence and trust in your child, than to have that trust destroyed if they find you missing.
Settle your child
Spend some time making your child feel comfortable before you leave.Let them get comfortable with the surroundings and people before you leave.Preparing your child for new people and places is key to keeping separation distress to a minimum.Left in any stranger like environment can lead to higher level of anxiety and worry.Consider using a favourite toy to help ease the transition.
Start small and build up
Start with extremely short separations. Allow adequate time to chat about why you will be away ( having a bath, going out to get something ) and give your child something to do ( puzzles, colouring, toys) and make it clear that you will be back by the end of the task. Try just stepping out for couple of minutes even without any particular chore to do. The first couple of times there will be a lot of tears and a lot of mom-guilt, but this too shall pass! When you return – remember to appreciate your child for a job well done, show them lots of affection (hugs and kisses). Do this at least once a day of the week and then slowly begin to increase the amount of time you are out.
Develop a trusty routine
Create a plan about what all your child needs to do while you are away. For example : Get a magnetic board and draw out an activity sheet on it. With some magnetic stickers get your little one to play a little game from activity to activity until mom is home. ( Do one page of colouring – eat your fruits – have a bath – mamma will be home).Read stories about saying goodbye and hello – Use books and role play to illustrate that goodbye is not forever and reunions are comforting and lovely.
Don’t give up!
Like every other phase of childhood – children will test your patience. The cries will get louder and the tears unbearable – but don’t give up. Stick to small absences and keep your cool no matter what. There will be days when the guilt will kill you but you need to start at some point. If you said you are stepping out for 5 minutes- stand outside with a timer for 5 minutes, no matter how strong the wailing and bawling is.This will help your child feel more confident too.Come up with a ‘brave’ phrase – Help your child cope with transition and separation with a special phrase. ‘Mamma will come back soon’ or ‘I can be brave’, for instance. Be strong and it’ll help your child in the long run.
You can’t imagine how many teachers have told us that the second a parent leaves a crying child’s classroom, that child is absolutely 100% fine! (Not every kid of course, but plenty of them).
Your child may always be tentative, nervous, or sensitive — which aren’t bad things — but the phase of crying at school drop-offs, everytime mom gets to work or steps out will end one day. And then, like me, you may actually look back and miss those tender moments.
Are you struggling with separation anxiety? What do you find works for you?