How to manage separation anxiety of yours and the child
Has your child ever thrown tantrums when he notices that you’re about to leave? Is he close to tears when he sees you walking away? Does he become anxious or scared when you get up? Such behaviour is normal to an extent for young children especially because you are their primary or only support system. Your child has established a trusting relationship with you and may feel helpless in your absence.
This is termed as separation anxiety. It refers to the fear felt by someone upon being separated from another individual. Some people find it hard to cope when they part ways with certain people even if it is for a short period. In the context of parenting, separation anxiety may be experienced by both parent or child.
Some children might find it difficult to cope when their parents leave them with a relative or a caregiver. Not only does this make your child anxious but is also stressful for you. It hinders your daily activities such as going to work, cooking, cleaning and attending social functions. Every child experiences separation anxiety differently. Some kids may feel comfortable with their immediate family whereas some children may become scared when their parents leave.
The best but most tiring way to handle this is by being patient. You have to be patient while dealing with your child who is anxious about foreign situations. Explaining the situation doesn’t work most of the time as children are too small to understand. They understand actions better than words.
So, when you tell your kid that you’ll be back as soon as you finish your work, make sure to be back. This enforces the idea that you will return. Your child might not feel confident after the first few times but eventually, the idea might get reinforced. And prepares them for another foreign situation – like the school setting.
Use concepts of time they are familiar with. Instead of saying that you will be back after you finish groceries, state that you will be back after their snack time.
Start small and gradually increase the time you leave your child with a trusted individual. You can start as small as fifteen minutes and go up to an hour. One important thing over here is the timing. Leaving your child when he is crying with hunger is not going to end well for anyone. Pick a time when he is well-fed, comfortable and in a good mood.
Try to familiarize your child with certain surroundings or objects in the surroundings. Let him carry a beloved soft toy to make him feel better. Gradually increase your visits to some familiar places such as your parent’s or a best friend’ house. You can always try setting up play dates.
But don’t leave them alone at first as this could worsen their fear. Instead, ensure that you are in the vicinity so they can always come back to you when they feel anxious. Maybe after a few weeks, they might feel confident enough to play in your absence for short periods.
Some kids like to pretend that they’re going to school. They might borrow an older sibling’s bag and bid you goodbye. You could role-play the same to amuse your child or prepare them for the future.
Separation anxiety works both ways. Some parents fear to leave their child under someone else’s care even if it’s for a short time. Of course, all parents experience this at a certain level.
But sometimes, even as time passes and the child becomes older, parents hesitate to allow a trusted adult like a grandparent or an adult to take care of them in their absence. One thing is certain over here: it is normal to be afraid especially if this is your first time raising a child. There is no exact handbook instructing you on how to go about this.
As a parent, practising the tips listed above could help you ease your anxiousness. You can try leaving your child with someone you both trust. A quick message or a call every hour could ease your worry.
Remember that, being around other people is good for your child. It prepares both of you for the future. Your child is not going to be with you forever and this is the first step of them becoming independent individuals.
It also develops their social skills and hiding him in your house could hinder his development. The more people your child can trust, the safer he will feel in this world.
With time, your child will feel less anxious in your absence. Separation anxiety is pretty normal but if it becomes extreme it could evolve into a separation anxiety disorder. In this case, the anxiety is more severe and seriously hinders daily life. This involves constant thoughts about losing a loved one, imagining scary scenarios involving accidents and not being able to let go of your loved one. Approaching a professional could help clear any doubts you have about separation anxiety disorder or separation anxiety in general.
• Separation anxiety refers to the fear of being separated from a loved one.
• It is a normal part of development.
• To help your child cope with separation anxiety, you can expose him to new settings for short intervals of time and gradually increase the period. Being patient, reliable and honest can help ease his anxiety.
• When separation anxiety is extreme it could turn into a separation anxiety disorder.