Overcoming Separation Anxiety
Either you’ve already experienced it, you’re in the middle of it, or it’s on the horizon. What is it? Separation Anxiety. Pediatricians help us understand that separation anxiety is so tough on kids because they don’t understand object permanence. A child realises Mum is gone, and what they think is, “Oh my gosh, MY MUM IS GONE,” like forever gone.
It’s why we play hide and seek or peekaboo with little ones. We want to reinforce the idea that even though you can’t see an object, it doesn’t mean it’s gone. The fear produced over this misunderstanding is what we call separation anxiety. It creates an anxiety in our children, and much of the time, an anxiety in us as parents.
Clinginess and tears are actually a healthy reaction to separation. It shows our child is bonded to us. As a child grows older, separation anxiety should lessen. In the meantime how do we deal with it as a parent?
We can’t always be WITH our child, but there is One who is ALWAYS with them. And not only is Jesus always with them, His affection for them is always present.
Romans 8:35-39 says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
So as we REST in the fact that God is always present with our child, and has a constant love for them what can we DO as parents to help a child move past separation anxiety?
Develop a goody-bye ritual. Don’t sneak away when you’re child isn’t looking. This actually leads to more anxiety. Give a kiss on the forehead, say, “I love you. Bye Bye sweetie.”
Be consistent. Your child will become more comfortable with drop off at daycare and/or church as they become more consistent with the environment.
Leave with confidence. If you walk out of the room then turn back around and return to retrieve your child, you are reinforcing the thought that something is wrong. Give the teacher your cell phone # and have them shoot you a quick text in 5 minutes to give you a status update.
Come up with a comfort object. Sometimes sending in a special object from home helps a child transition better.
Separation anxiety is lessened when we as the parent exude confidence and calmness at drop off. Leaving your child will actually help your child in the end, so fight the urge to feel guilty about leaving them. Your job as a parent is to help them become independent, and they can’t do that while clinging to your leg!