The majority of children experience normative separation anxiety during childhood. This can be especially challenging for a rising preschooler or kindergartener. Most children actually fear separation from their caregiver, more than they fear of school. Crying, tantrums, and clinginess are all healthy reactions to separation. Separation anxiety can begin before year 1 and last until ages 6 or 7, but both the intensity level and timing of separation anxiety vary tremendously from child to child. You can ease your child’s separation anxiety by staying patient and consistent, and by gently but firmly setting limits.
Factors, such as anxious parents, overprotective parenting, a recent move, death or illness in the family or extended family, or a traumatic incident. Many parents blame themselves when it reality it isn’t anyone’s fault. We are all born with temperaments and go through seasons in our lives. The good news children are amazingly resilient and can overcome separation anxiety!
Try these 4 tips to ease separation anxiety today:
1) Don’t prolong the exit or sneak out
Try not to stall or repeat your goodbye’s. Tell them where you are going and when you will return to pick them up. Remain calm & keep positive body language.
Rea , read, read , role play, have some fun! Remind them to feel brave & show courage!
The Good-Bye Book by Judith Viorst- Ages 4-8
Wemebrley Worried by Kevin Henkes-Ages 4-8
Into the Great Forest by Irene Marcus-Ages 4-8
3) Explain the Routine
Often parents/caregivers think they shouldn’t talk to much about the upcoming separation. Research states discussing the sooner the better, no abrupt separations or secrets. Explain what to expect, Be honest. For example, we will walk you to your classroom, find your cubby & seat. We will hug goodbye , your teacher will have fun activities, lunch, play outside & I will be there to pick you up when the little hand is on 3. You can even practice the morning drop off before school starts, walking to the classroom, lunchroom etc.
4) Show Empathy
Never make fun of a child’s separation anxiety/distress or scold. Punishment isn’t a solution. These are real, uncomfortable feelings for a child. Try not to deny their feelings “ I know you are worried I won’t be there to pick you up, there is no reason to worry, I will be there” Keep it simple! Be kind, positive, encouraging & consistent.
It is important to note that some children experience separation anxiety that doesn’t go away, even with a parent’s best efforts. These children experience intense separation anxiety during their elementary school years or beyond. If separation anxiety is excessive enough to interfere with normal activities like school and friendships, and lasts for months rather than days, it may be a sign of a larger problem: separation anxiety disorder. If you think your child may have separation anxiety disorder or have additional questions, it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a therapist that specializes in treating separation anxiety.