Separation anxiety is a hard thing to go through, both as a child and for the parents. And, it isn’t something that plagues a child for a few years in childhood and then magically disappears. It can affect a person for decades. At some point in childhood, it does go stealth, because children don’t want to be embarrassed or seem like a “baby” in front of their friends. However, it can still be there, lingering underneath the surface. Everyone assumes it has resolved itself and that “children are resilient.” Don’t be fooled. If left unresolved, it can come out in numerous other ways later. Fortunately, it can be avoided.
Here are three tips to avoid separation anxiety:
1 – Meeting Baby’s Needs: Answer the needs of your infant/baby immediately. Leaving a baby to cry in his crib when you want him to sleep, or wait for food on a certain schedule, relays the message that he is not important and that his needs may not be met. That is a scary place for a baby who is 100% reliant upon another person for survival. A baby needs to feel safe and loved. Your child will either believe in a loving and caring world, or a world in which everyone fends for themselves, there’s not enough to go around, and where love may or may not be present. As a parent, you have a lot of power over which belief your child takes on.
2 – Leaving Your Child at Daycare: If your child is having issues for any reason with being left at daycare, preschool, with a sitter, etc., leaving them anyway is not the best option. I know teachers and sitters may say, “She’ll be okay.” However, deep inside, all your child knows is that their #1 advocate (you) just walked out the door in their time of need. Instead, think “transition.” What does your child need for transition? As early as possible, begin having conversations with your children about being at daycare, with a sitter, or any other time away from mom and/or dad. Talk about when they are afraid, when they are not afraid, what they need, and how to bridge the gaps. You are not only helping them become more comfortable with being away (because you take the time to listen and care), but you are simultaneously planting seeds for a lifetime of open communication. It’s a dance. This isn’t all of it, but this will get you started. Having a teenager that comes to you for advice, insights or just a hearing ear starts with you opening the conversation as a baby, toddler, and young child. Taking the time to help them transition in the younger years will make a huge difference in your relationship over the course of many years to come.
3 – Sneaking out. When you drop off your children and they get “distracted,” how often do you rush off because you “lucked out” and won’t have a teary morning? Did you say “good-bye”? Even though it seems counter-intuitive, be sure you get their attention and say “good-bye” (or create your good-bye ritual before you walk in). Never “sneak” out. It may seem better and more convenient in the moment. However, internally, a child will make an unconscious mental and emotional note that you just left him. The mistrust that is created will linger. The more it happens, the less they trust you and the world around them. It may take longer in the beginning to say goodbye. However, remember that you are building something far more important in that moment. You are building trust. Trust is an essential element in parenting. You will need it in spades when they become teenagers. Start building it now.
Traci Carman is the Founder of “A Loving Way ~ How I Parent Makes a Difference”. She has been a mother for nearly 25 years and has three children. She is a Parenting Coach, Speaker and Author, and is certified in Coaching, Performance Consulting, Training of NLP and Neurological Repatterning, Reiki and Meditation. She is known for her practical and intuitive parenting style. (www.alovingway.com / 800-647-1171)