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How to Combat Separation Anxiety

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How to Combat Separation Anxiety

Many children experience anxiety when they are in a situation where they need to be away from their parents for a period of time. For some children, just the thought of being away from their parents for even a few moments is almost too much to bear!

Unfortunately, there comes a point in all children’s lives when they need to be away from their parents for some reason or other (for example, some children go to daycare while their parents are at work, while others go over-night or longer with friends or relatives when their parents travel for work or a well-deserved break away).

Although there may be times when it is not possible to avoid being away from your child, there are some things you can do to help ease their anxiety:

Trial Run 

The way an infant or child responds to separation from a parent may depend on the nature of their attachment to the parent. Infants start to develop an attachment with their caregivers somewhere around 5 to 7 months of age. As such, you may find that around this age, your infant find’s it the most difficult to be separated from you.

It may be helpful to ease your child into a separation from you through a series of trials or visits.

For example, if you will be taking your child to daycare, speak with the daycare and ask if you can spend some time there with your child before you leave them for a longer period of time. Give them some time to get comfortable and play. If they appear to be settled and occupied, leave for a few moments (e.g. 5 mins or so) and then come back. Repeat this exercise a few times, gradually increasing the length of time you are away.

Return to play with your child until it is time to leave.

During this trial run, your infant has an opportunity to become comfortable with their surroundings and familiar with the caregivers. Another important part of this “trial run” is that your child starts to understand that even though you have left you will always return.

You can also try a practice run with older children too. Click here to learn more.

Comfort Item

Some children’s separation anxiety is exacerbated when they are not only away from their parents, but also away from particular items of comfort (such as a teddy, blanket or pet), while other children harbour a fear that something might happen to their parents while they are way, or worry that their parents will not return.

Where possible, arrange for your child to take an item of comfort with them when they will be away from you.
If your child is particularly concerned that you may not return at the time you have agreed to pick them up, give them something of yours that they know is important to you (for example, a hair clip, ornament, piece of jewellery, your jacket or something else they know is special to you), ask them to look after it, and reassure them that you will return.

This can help reassure your child that you will return for both them and the item you have asked them to keep safe while you are away.

How do you help your child deal with separation anxiety or homesickness? Let us know in the comments below!

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Beth

We went through this a little bit with my son. The thing that helps us the most is talk about it in simple terms before the separation happens and kind of reiterate that mommy and daddy will come back. We also love the Grownups Always Come Back episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, that helps a lot too!

Charlotte

I don’t remember ever having separation anxiety as a child, but it’s strange how in adulthood, I find comfort from my surroundings and familiarity. Love the idea of having a comfort item though 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing, Dominique!!

XOXO

Divya

I noticed that with my first nephew, he had the worst separation anxiety. It would break my heart to hear him scream and cry when we dropped him off at pre-school. I wonder if a lot of it had to do with the lack of socialization he had before. His parents were moving around a lot while his father completed his medical school journey and they never completely set down roots, which meant that Mama Bear and Baby Bear spent a lot of time together with no other faces familiar to him.

Kimberly

My son never experienced separation anxiety until he started school for the first time. It was bad at first but it got better after a month. Then …. grade two happened and he was bullied to a pulp by his teacher. It was brutal. He ended up getting severe OCD because of it. So the anxiety about leaving him at school has started up again. He’s terrified of the teachers and it’s with reason.
It’s hard.
These are all very wonderful tips. My best advice is, be patient and understanding and consistent. It’s really hard for both parties. Big hugs!

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