Separation anxiety

February 8, 2010

by Jenni Sebora

As parents, we probably have had to deal with some type of separation anxiety – and it was possibly us who were anxious about separating.

There have been cartoons depicting the parents of first time kindergartners bringing their children to school, and the children are playing, but the parents are standing in a group sobbing. The teacher sends them – the parents on their way, reassuring them that it will be okay.

Truthfully, some children have more difficulty with separation than others; as well as some parents have a harder time dealing with it than others.

As parents, we have to be careful of our emotions. If we are anxious about the good-bye, children can sense this and become anxious, too.

The book, “The Kissing Hand”, by Audrey Penn is a perfect book for parents to read with their children about this very topic. Chester, the boy raccoon is nervous about going off to school and leaving the warmth, comfort, and security of his mother.

She offers him the Kissing Hand to always remind him that no matter where he is, his mother’s love will always be there.

Mama raccoon kisses his hand and tells him that whenever he feels lonely and needs a little loving from home, he can just put that hand to his cheek and the love will come pouring through.

That is what our children need to know. When we are not physically present, it does not mean that we won’t be coming back or that they have lost our love.

An article in “Parents”, September 2002 and child experts recommend establishing a drop off routine. Making the routine fun can make the departure even easier. Use the “Kissing Hand” technique or do a silly face or handshake that is just reserved for this occasion.

If the dropping off is too difficult, especially when your child may cry, have your spouse do it. Some children have an easier time saying good-bye to one parent than the other.

As much as we like to hang around to make sure everything is okay, this can add to the anxiety for your child. Dawdling can make things more difficult.

Be cheerful. Tell your child you love them. Tell them that when you pick them up, you want them to share with you what they did, like what the hamsters in the cage did today.

Don’t sneak out either. Your child will soon come to understand that when you leave, you will come back.

Bring something along that reminds your child of you or your home. I know a parent that left a daddy hankie with his son that smelled just like daddy. The hanky was always safe in the boy’s pocket to be pulled out as needed.

Schedule playdates for your child. Have a child over that attends your child’s daycare or preschool. This will help make another connection to someone other than yourself when you do drop him or her off.

The “Parents” article also says to listen to your child. Maybe she is worried that they will eat something that she doesn’t like. These small issues may be big issues for her. Reassure her that these things can be worked out.

Try and be positive, and hopefully this attitude will influence your child.

Pass on the “Kissing Hand” and your child will learn that your love will always be there, and they can lean on that love to help them along.