Parenting Vivian | 28 Sep 2010 05:00 am

Dealing With Your Child’s Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is all about your child’s mind and how they process events, thinking. (In this scenario) If I cry, maybe my parents won’t leave.

For most of your child’s life they controlled most things that happened in their world, but lately those things seem to be changing and just don’t seem to be the same; the people that they thought they could always count on to be there have started a disappearing act, just when they need them the most they weren’t there. To make matters worse, people they don’t even know-and aren’t sure they even want to know-keep on trying to comfort them. Your child’s world as they knew it is clearly changing, and given the way things are going you can understand how they can’t really be sure that the people they are most attached to will ever come back.

Help your child manage separation anxieties:

?Be firm but reassuring. Tell your child where you’re going and that you’ll be back.

?Don’t say I’ll miss you. They will only feel guilty that they are making you unhappy. If you’re upset at leaving, that’s what your child will think is the way to reaction to separation.

?If you’re leaving, just say your good byes keep a smile on your face and just go.

?Be patient. Don’t minimize your child’s feelings about your leaving. You know you’ll be back; your child’s not so sure.

?Play games like hide and seek to reinforce the idea that things–and especially you –don’t disappear forever.

?Establish a routine. Doing things on a regular schedule kids adapt to structured thinks very well. Being consistent can help your child understand that some things in life can be counted on.

?Develop a strong attachment. Singing, playing, reading, talking together all help build a strong, loving bond between you and your child and helps them feel more secure, the more secure they are the less they’ll worry about being abandoned.

?Ask questions, for most kids, being alone–not the dark–is what scares them so make sure your child has a toy or other security object with them. Be gentle. Give your child time to adjust to new situations and people.

?Know your child’s temperament. If your child has a low frustration tolerance, they won’t want you to leave and may cry all day after being separated, but when you do leave, they’ll usually cry only for a few minutes. Your child’s may cry again when you return, though, because your coming back is as much of a transition as your leaving was.

As hard as separation anxiety is for your child, it’s really a positive sign, marking the beginning of his struggle between independence and dependence. It’s a scary time and you can see his confusion several times every day as he alternates between clinging to you or pushing you away.

Not all kids get separation anxiety. Those who have siblings and have had regular contact with lots of friendly, loving people will probably have an easier time adapting to brief separations than those who have spent all their time with one or two people. They’ll be more comfortable with strangers and more confident that their parents and other loved ones will return quickly.

This first separation can be heartbreaking. The best thing for you to do is to reassure your child, give them another kiss…and leave. It’s hard to do. The temptation to go back and scoop your child into your arms is great. Don’t give in to this urge. You know your child will be safe at preschool and you know will most likely have fun.

Jacqualine J. Hehr

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