EduKids Early Childhood Education Centers

Separation Anxiety

Posted on: September 20, 2010

Kate Dust, EduKids Education Director

As parents, we’ve all been in situations similar to these…

Your child screams when you leave him with a babysitter. Your toddler is starting in a childcare center and clings to your leg sobbing as you try to walk out the door. Your young school-ager announces that she doesn’t like kindergarten and won’t go back. She then wails and throws up the next morning to make her point.

Some ideas that work:

  • Keep your anxiety to yourself. Children will follow the lead of their parent – most often their mom. This is called “social referencing”. Even the youngest infant will pick up on feelings of stress or calm from an adult. Your children will use you as a reference to gauge their feelings and reactions. If you are nervous and fretful about a separation they will be too.
  • Be totally secure in the separation and who you are leaving your child with.
  • Talk through the process with toddlers and older children. Use positive words and gestures. Offer pleasant anticipation of what they will be doing and the fun they will have. Respectfully reassure older children that a new routine or event is positive and will be successful.
  • Familiarize your child with a new person, place or activity they will be involved with. A babysitter should come and play before being left alone with your child. Meet a teacher together and visit a center or school together before formal attendance. Take pictures of the place they will be a part of before they go. Keep it on the fridge and talk about it. Is there a buddy they will be with?
  • Keep separation simple. Although it is tempting to cling to a screaming baby and stay with a crying toddler or preschooler, a routine for their entrance and your exit is truly the best for your child and you. School attendance is not an option. Therefore, routine is key to success.
  • Stay together in simple ways when apart. Make sure your family picture is part of your little one’s new environment. Keep a little scarf or sweater of yours in their cubby or backpack (smell is a powerful sense of recognition). Write a little love note for your older child’s lunchbox.
  • Confidently reassure them that you will be back home when left with a babysitter, you will get them at the end of their program day and you will be so glad to see them at the end of their school day.
  • Take a breath! Separation anxiety is real and it affects not just your child, but you. It’s hard to leave someone we love so much. But they will be fine – really. And so will you.

“Why are you still here?” my 9-year-old nephew asked my sister when she dropped him off at a friend’s birthday party.

She cried for a week.

-Kate Dust, EduKids Education Director

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