Does your child know how to deal with being away from you? You need to ask yourself this question right now. If you’re not sure or the answer is no then your child has separation anxiety and you have some work to do. You need to create opportunities to reduce separation anxiety in your child so when the time comes your kid knows how to handle it.
What is Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a normal part of child development that usually manifests itself between ages 8 and 14 months. Separation anxiety can be displayed in various, but usually similar ways. For instance, refusal to go sleep or go to school without you being there. Or fears of being left alone and something bad will happen to them. If your child is displaying these actions and emotions when they are older they may have separation anxiety disorder.
Why Dealing with It Is Important
It’s your job as a parent to prepare your child for the world. And we’re not just talking 20 years down the line with a full on career and family of their own, we’re talking the more immediate future. Your child needs to be able to interact with other children their age as well as other family members, friends and going to school. Going to school for the first time can cause stress for children, especially when they are not prepared. There are so many new things awaiting them on their first day. If your child is not ready to leave you we have 5 easy steps that will reduce separation anxiety in your child.
5 Strategies to Reduce Separation Anxiety
Playgroups are a great way to introduce your child to a group environment. Engage your child in active play then pull back. Sit on the sidelines. Every time your child comes to you encourage them to return to the group and interact with their peers. This will set the foundation for learning to interact with others while still having a sense of security because you’re close by.
2. Play Date at Your House
Invite a friend over for a playdate and set up several activities for the kids. Then you need to leave the room. This step is the beginning of a slight pullback. Your child will be in a comfortable, safe and familiar environment. While you will be out-of-sight the feeling of security is still present. Of course, you need to monitor their play, but they do not need to know it.
3. Activity at Home then Abroad
Find an activity that your child truly loves like riding a bike, coloring, cooking, etc. Have a friend or family member do this activity with them at your house first while you grocery shop. Repeat the activity at your friends or family members home.
4. Dropoff at a Familiar Place
Consider leaving your child with a family member or close neighbor. Pick a place and person that your child is familiar with. This step slowly ups the sense of distance between you and your child. We know it’s hard for you too, but you need to do it. Nothing big, just walk around the block and come back. Repeat this several times a week each time increasing the duration that you’re away. Always let your child know you are coming back. This is very important.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Over the course of several weeks and months, you need to repeat all of these steps many times over. Start off slowly and then increase the frequency. Gradually build up your child being used to you not there all the time. This is the only way it works. Remember, the longest journey starts with the first step.
Your child is only on loan for a few years and it’s your job to help them become independent happy adults. Preschool is the very best place to give your child wings. You will have that pit in your stomach every time they walk out the door but keep at it because it’s the right thing to do. And the right thing and the easy thing are rarely the same. Just wait until you drop them off at college. Talk about drama!