Separation Anxiety- 5 Steps to Help!
Ugh. Separation anxiety. The screaming, the clinging, the superhuman strength, the panic. It’s awful and leaves all parties involved feeling sad and defeated. I remember numerous occasions of getting in the car after morning drop off and just sobbing! It made me feel like a terrible mother, like I was torturing my child. And then of course I would spiral into questioning all my life decisions that led me to being a working mama. A tad dramatic, yes, but all the parents out there who have a stage 5 clinger know what I’m talking about! No matter that the teacher would send me pictures of my beaming child ten minutes later, my whole morning was ruined!
I finally decided that I simply could not live like this anymore. So I quit my job. HAHA What? No, get serious, I definitely did not. But I did start researching and testing out different ways to help alleviate the separation anxiety my child was having. Do we have a perfectly smooth drop off every day? Of course not. But these five tips have helped immensely, and drop off is an entirely different experience now.
1.Children thrive on routine. Many people think a schedule is the death of fun, of spontaneity, of the exuberance of youth in general, but the fact is that children need structure in their lives. I’m not saying you should have a militant schedule timed down to the minute, but a regular morning routine is essential. Children can be alarmed by the unknown very easily, so if they never know what to expect, they will cling to the one thing that is consistent and safe, which is you.
So what does a consistent morning look like? Try this: wake time, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, pick out a lovey (if your child is into that) and then into the car. Your child might not respond well to getting dressed immediately after waking, maybe he or she needs breakfast first, but you can tweak as needed. The important part is to just get started!
I have also found it helpful to set expectations in the car on the way to school. If your child is old enough, you can have a light conversation about school drop off and Mama (or Daddy) heading to work, but emphasize that you will be back to pick them up. Always. Without fail. You will be there.
2. Make your goodbyes quick. This one is really important. I have certainly done my fair share of meandering, lengthy goodbyes. I somehow think if I stay a little longer she’ll be more settled, more ready for me to leave, when in fact the opposite is true. It might not be a peaceful exit, but give hugs and kisses and then leave quickly. The teachers are skilled at stepping in and handling the situation if a meltdown occurs. Also, don’t sneak out when your child’s head is turned. You don’t want to reinforce the idea that you’re ghosting, you want to emphasize that your child is independent and that you will always come back.
3. Allow your child to choose a comfort object or lovey. A lovey gives the child control in a situation where they feel they don’t have any. Keep in mind that every child is different. Some children might be extremely attached to one particular blanket, while others might choose a different object every day. (And some might not want a lovey at all.) I have seen a child who carried his mama’s bra around. I thought it was an unusual choice, but toddlers aren’t rational! And don’t worry, the chances of having a high schooler still carrying around a lovey is extremely remote.
4. Continue to work on this outside of school. If you have plans and a babysitter lined up, do not cancel your plans. GO. This further reinforces the idea that your child is independent and that you will always return.
5. Lastly, remember that separation anxiety can take many forms as your child grows and develops. Some children have it as babies, some as toddlers and some not at all! (Well, and some have it all the way through…) What works for your toddler might not work when they are preschoolers. Sometimes these issues seem to creep up out of nowhere. Don’t give up! Are any life events impending? New house, new sibling? See if your routine needs some tweaking (earlier bedtime, more quality time together, etc.) and press on.
Luckily, separation anxiety is something children grow out of eventually, and all these tips will help build their confidence and trust, which can speed along the process. Remember, consistency is key! If you have any awesome separation anxiety tips, please leave us a comment with it. We are all in this together, so share the info! Visit us on social @islandprep and give us the deets!
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