Separation Anxiety: What To Do?
You are getting ready to drop your sweet bundle of joy off at childcare, grandma’s, or the church nursery. As you walk up you are prepping them by saying, “Mama is going to be back in 2 hours, when you wake up from your nap.” Then they see every familiar landmark and it feels like you are now carrying a load of bricks, as you take a few steps closer, the bricks become a wild crocodile in your arms thrashing and throwing themselves around.
Before you know what’s happening, you now have a baby koala who is holding on to you so tightly you have to take a moment to catch your breath. As you work with Grandma or the childcare provider to peel this koala, crocodile, load of bricks, bundle of joy off of you, your mind is wondering “Is this normal?! What should I do?”
Separation anxiety is completely normal and an important part of development. It typically starts around 9 months and can last to about 18 months of age, but drop-offs can be hard all the way through preschool. Just like with everything else, it takes lots of practice for our kiddos to get the hang of it and realize “Mama/Daddy is coming back for me.” There are some things you can do to help make it better for them (and you).
1. Create a Ritual
Rituals are special ways that you can connect within your family. Creating a ritual for how your family handles drop offs can build predictability and connection for your kiddo. Having a special hand shake, a kissy hand, working together to put up the backpack, all of these things can help our kiddos prepare for the separation. These special rituals also create a time of connection for our kiddos.
2. Make it Quick
Like a bandaid, you gotta do it fast. I know that it is very tempting to try to calm them at the doorway to their school room and you’re thinking that you are helping them and their teacher, but really making drop off a quick process is what’s best for our kiddos. We know that typically a child will calm within 5 to 10 minutes and are good to go. The longer you hang around and are in sight, the more you are a continued reminder that you are going somewhere and your child is not.
3. Prep Them Using Kid Language
You can begin to prep your kiddo for separation using age-appropriate language. By letting your child know when you will be back, you give them an idea of what to expect. Using some activity that is part of their day will help them be more aware of when you will be back. Saying things like “I’ll be back after naptime/outside time” gives your child knowledge and knowledge is a powerful tool for our kiddos.
Separation can be hard. Always looking for a way to build structure and connection is helpful for both you and your child.
Need some ideas? Check out Meagan’s blog Play: The Language of Children.
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