You’ve gazed into his baby blues and pronounced yourself the Luckiest Mother on Earth, even if it meant feedings at 2 am and 4:30 am. You stayed home with him for his first year, but the moment is here: the budget is tight and it’s time to get back to work. Or, your husband convinces you: sweetie, remember ME? The one who fathered this child? The baby’s 2 now. Can we finally go away for a weekend?
You know you must hand him over. It might only be to your mom, your neighbor or your best friend, but for some, it could be a new day care center or a new sitter.
Your doubts and worries begin: will he be alright? Whether he’s 1 year old and just going to the church nursery for the first time, or he’s 3 and you’re dropping him off at his first preschool class, you and he feel the tears coming on. “Don’t leave me, Mommy, don’t!” he wails, clinging to your leg.
Separation anxiety has entrenched itself. What now? What can be done for him?
Prepare him for the transition. “Children thrive on consistency and predictabilty so give that to them by going through the same routines and giving a warning before the transition to help when the transition occurs,” advises Jennifer Kelman, MSW, a social worker and author of the children’s book Mrs. Pinkelmeyer and Moopus McGlinden Burn the Rrrrump Rrrroast, which aims to inspire childrens’ self-esteem.
"Never let ‘em see you sweat." Don’t let your child see you’re a babbling mess. We reassure parents that they should be comfortable leaving them, because then the child sees that, and they pick up on it. If they’re comfortable, it works,” says Debbie McGowan, the center director for KinderCare on Sudley Manor Drive in Manassas.
Keep it short and sweet. McGowan also suggests parents keep their goodbyes brief. “The longer they stay, the kids think when their parents leave, they’re supposed to go too.”
Don’t give in to the gab. “Do not begin to alter your life to accommodate the tears or tantrums,” Kelman adds. “This will only teach your child that the crying and tantrums have worked to keep you home or with them.” She also warns against long-winded explanations of what is happening. “It will fall on deaf ears as the tantrum prevents anything from being absorbed.”
Remember, childhood is full of phases. Some separation anxiety is normal. Other parents have found a variety ways to cope with the issue, including Parent Dish's 5 tips on reducing your child’s anxiety.
We’d like to know if you’ve encountered separation anxiety. How did you make it easier?