Separation Anxiety – Parent or Child

For parents and children, drop-offs at school can be a heart-wrenching challenge. Your child is anxious; he or she has to let go of Mummy’s and Daddy’s hand to join an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar faces. On the other side of the fence, you feel a bit of guilt creeping in for leaving them, wondering if your child’s struggle is somehow a reflection of your parenting.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Goodbyes are always hard, especially when you’ve gotten used to your baby by your side. But goodbyes are also inevitable, even the ones as innocuous as just leaving for work or for school.

Some children (and parents!) have a harder time than others when it comes to separation anxiety. In a nutshell, it’s the worry that you and your child feel when you need to go your own ways for the day. For children, it might manifest as a crying tantrum that makes it hard for them to go to school. As parents, it’s the lingering at the door and constant worrying about your child in the care of someone other than yourself. Sometimes, you might be the one crying instead.

When is it not OK?

Separation anxiety is a rite of passage for every parent, but there are times when it can feel worse than normal. If your child is causing a scene every time you drop them off at school, or when they are inappropriately clingy, there might be more to it than meets the eye. When things get too bad, or if you think that the anxiety is getting in the way of your child and you getting on with your daily activities, it might be good to visit a counsellor to get to the bottom of your worries.

How to Deal with Separation Anxiety

Surely, there are many ways to make goodbyes a little easier every day. Here are some tips:

  • Develop a goodbye ritual. Whether it is a long hug or a short kiss and wave at the gate, it’s easier for your child to ease into your time apart when you develop a ritual that can reassure them. Consider letting them pack something small from home in their bag to give your child a bit of familiarity to hold on to when missing you.
  • Be consistent. From keeping your schedule to promises, being consistent is key. Your child needs something familiar to ease their worries – they need to know what to expect when you need to leave and when you’re going to come back. Keep to a schedule to reassure them that the separation is not permanent.
  • Trust. One of the things that drive the guilt of leaving your child at school is the idea that they cannot cope without you. You need to be able to trust your child to learn as much as they can while you’re not around, and you also need to trust the school you’re leaving them at.
  • It’s not easy to let other people take care of your child, but you can soothe your own anxiety by looking for a school that prioritises your child’s needs and comfort over everything else.
  • Develop rapport with their teachers. To ease your own worries, you need to know who is taking care of your child at school. Make sure you know their teachers and ensure you have an open line of communication with them to build a partnership for your child’s development. For example, at Brighton Montessori, teachers work hand-in-hand with parents to provide a holistic, well-rounded education for children. It helps to make sure that the learning does not stop at school, but is present in the child’s everyday life even at home.

Separation anxiety is a normal phase in your child’s development process, but it’s important to note that it’s temporary. It’s a bittersweet feeling when your child finally stops crying for you when it’s time to go, but you can be assured that it’s the best for their growth, and sometimes yours too.

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