Separation Anxiety

With school back in session, and some kids going for the first time (whether kindergarten or pre-school), some families may be dealing with the issue of separation anxiety. If that is you, or if you have ever before experienced this with your child, I would love to share some food for thought.

Many times, when our children are faced with separation anxiety, we are told that the best thing to do is leave, and they will settle down and be fine. And, in most cases, that does appear to happen. However, what we are not addressing, and are unable to physically see, is the emotional impact these events have on a child.

When kids are going through separation anxiety, it is very real for them. They need reassurance, trust, care, and some time for transition. While we know they are safe and well taken care of where we are leaving them, they do not. They want mom or dad. There is nothing wrong with that. It is not a power struggle. It is not about control. It is about fear, insecurity, and loss of connection with the most important person in their life. These are valid concerns that need to be acknowledged and addressed with love.

Here are a few suggestions that might be helpful …

  • The night before school, talk with your child about what it is like to go to school and to be away from mommy and daddy. What are their fears? What are their joys? Talk about it, and reassure them. Most of all, listen and validate them. Their fears are real. They just need to work through them.
  • Make arrangements with your work to allow some flexibility in the morning for dropping off your little ones with care (spending extra time, if necessary).
  • Schedule your morning free of appointments so that you have the flexibility to ease your child into his day. Be willing to stay long enough to allow for the transition. (You will know when that is by staying connected to your feelings, and not being stressed about having to move on to another appointment. This temporary accommodation will pay off later.)
  • Get excited about the classroom and let them show you their books, friends, etc. They want to find a way to incorporate you into their new space.
  • Give your child something to remember you by for the day, and let them give you something as well, for you to remember them for the day.

We want our kids to know that we are there for them. Change can be hard. Separation can be difficult. It is for us too. So, let’s be with our children, as they go through these events in their lives. Let’s show them that we are sensitive to their deepest feelings and needs, that we won’t abandon them, they can trust us, and we love them. Yes, this may mean a few long good-bye’s and some patience on behalf of a few adults. Let’s tend to the emotional needs of our children, and nurture their little hearts through the growing pains. In the end, you will find fewer power struggles, better communication, and a higher level of mutual respect. Your child is not trying to control you. They just want to feel safe and close to you. Take a few minutes to see what you can do to create an easier transition. In the process of exploring this ~ with the help of your child ~ you will create an even deeper and more loving relationship that will last far beyond a few days of extra hugs and longer good-bye’s.

And, remember, YOU are the expert when it comes to your child. Listen to your heart.

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