1. Your Feelings of Separation Anxiety are Normal
Sometimes parents can feel as if they or their children are overreacting to the emotions that they feel when it's time to send their kids off into the world. Normalize your feelings by talking to parents or your support system about it. Other parents, grandparents and caregivers like teachers can be your biggest allies and offer you ways on how to effectively deal with separation anxiety. Also be OK with talking about feelings of fear and anxiety if your child comes to you with that. It's better to validate their feelings instead of just dismissing it and reassuring them.
2. Have a Goodbye Routine
Whether it's a hug and a kiss before leaving your little one at Pre-K or taking your college age student for brunch before they leave for the year; having a goodbye routine is comforting for both you and your child. It leaves both of you with a warm memory that will last you until you are reunited. Sticking with the routine also gives you and your child something to look forward to when you separate again while providing your child with feelings of safety.
3. Keep Calm When Leaving
It can be so hard to see your child incredibly upset and uneasy when you leave but as the parent you must remain strong when you separate. Even if they are having a tantrum, seeing you upset and teary will only greatly increase their anxiety.
4. Set Boundaries & Stick With Them
This has to be the most difficult for parents, especially parents of younger kids, but setting boundaries with how things will be when you part ways is vital for your child's adjustment to separation. If you say "I know the first day of school is scary and new for you but mommy will see you in a few hours." you have to follow through with that. There are ways to help ease your child's anxiety. Leaving reward notes from you for every few hours the child is successful in school or calling to check in with the teacher will have your child feel loved and cared for even when you're not around. Click on the website schoolpsychiatry.org for more school based interventions.
Separation Anxiety is a normal part of growing up and it is even more normal for a parent to have feelings of anxiety as well. If you believe your anxiety or your child's anxiety is disproportionate and impeding on their development, seek some assistance from friends, family or a professional like the therapists at Philadelphia MFT. Contact us for more details.
This topic of the week was written by Alanna Gardner, MFT