Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Are you planning to leave your child with a carer for the first time? Is he/she going to a new nursery/ school this autumn? All parents face at some stage the difficult exercise of teaching their children how to separate.

Separation produces conflicting emotions: Your child may feel fear or doubt about still being loved. He/she could also feel confusion or anger at the situation. They will also be feeling excited about the new experience, the new friends and about having fun! Parents might experience mixed feelings of excitement and guilt.

In order to minimise anxiety for both the child and the parent, here are a few tips that we’ve collected from our readers:

In preparation:

1- Several weeks before, take the child to the location of the new school/ childminder and if possible meet the person who will be taking care of him. You can do this progressively by visiting the outside of the premises, then the actual room he will be in, then meet the carer.

2- Read with your child a few books about separation issues and about going to school for the first time. Your child will understand that others feel the way he does and that it is normal.

3- Prepare all the items you need the day before to avoid rushing last minute. You can set up a nighttime and a morning ritual for further re-assurance.

4- If possible, let your child take a comforter to nursery (their favourite teddy bear, a blanket …) and a photo of the parents.

5- If your child has been off on a long holiday, send him to school with a reminder of the holidays: for instance something that they’ve created or a photo that they can talk about and share.

On the day:

1- Help your child understand the routine of the day and schedule of events: “You will first have circle time, then a snack, then playtime, then lunch then a nap. And then mummy will pick you up”

2- Set fixed parameters and stick strictly to your promises: “I will stay with you for 5 minutes, then tell you goodbye and leave the room”

3- If your child is doing well, avoid prolonging the goodbye. Sometimes parents feel more distressed than the child and can communicate those feelings to him.

4- NEVER leave without saying goodbye, even if your child seems to be fully engaged in an activity.

5- Tear are normal and part of the process. Don’t ask your child to stop crying and don’t bribe him!

6- If you have to leave your child in tears, arrange to call the carer/ teacher back to get re-assurance.

7- Be on time for pickup to avoid unnecessary worrying.

Depending on your child’s age, he/she might be at a different developmental stage and might react differently to other children. Remember that separation is a necessary step in everyone’s life and that any anxiety will pass. Try not to feel guilty as this will help your child adapt better to the new arrangement!

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Share your tips with us by commenting below or emailing us!

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