Wednesday 18th June, 2014
At the start of each term, it’s not uncommon to see some children upset when their parents drop them off in the morning. It’s also pretty common to see parents upset… and as a mum I’ve been there, done that, and am still learning how to cope. (Although I admit that saying goodbye is easier now that my children have turned three)
Here’s the thing: this separation anxiety is completely normal. Yes, it may be difficult to deal with, but remember that most children go through this anywhere from 6 months to 4 years old. It tends to start when children realise they are separate individuals from their parents, i.e. instead of always being with their parents, they begin separate routines like going to bed by themselves, being left with a babysitter, and commonly, starting school. They become upset and agitated when they’re separated from their loved (and trusted) ones because they are uncomfortable with being out of their comfort zone.
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help ease your child through separation anxiety (and stop the waterworks):
1. Communicate with the caregiver (i.e helper or preschool).
2. Never sneak away when it’s time to say goodbye. Letting your child know you’re leaving even when they’re upset builds trust between the both of you.
3. Keep goodbyes short and sweet.
4. Show that you understand their feelings e.g. “I know you would like me to stay.”
5. Let your child know when you’ll be back in a way that they understand e.g. “After lunch” or “Before you go to bed.”
6. Be reliable and return when you say you will.
7. Think baby steps – start with short separations to get your child used to being apart from you before increasing the length of separation gradually.
Of course it’s not just children who have to adjust to being on their own. Us parents often go through a period where we’re constantly worrying about our children’s safety, feeding, sleeping etc., and stress out especially about introducing children to school. From one mum to another, here are some tricks I’ve picked up to help ease the nerves:
1. Acknowledge the anxiety. It’s okay to be nervous about leaving your child in the care of someone else, but trust they are in good hands.
2. Know that everyone does things differently. Other caregivers may not share your approach, but children are remarkably resilient and adaptive. No matter how small they are, they’re not going to fall apart just because someone else is taking care of them! As long as they are secure and well looked after, they will be okay!
3. Understand the importance of separation. Exposing your children to different caretakers instills a sense of belonging and community in them.
4. Have a ritual. Saying goodbye can be tough no matter how many times you’ve done it, so have a ritual that will allow your child (and you) know it’s time to go. You can play a goodbye game or even exchange token so that throughout the day, the both of you will have a memento of each other’s for comfort.
Hope this helps!
Your friendly neighborhood gardener,