How to Deal with a Child who is Experiencing Separation Anxiety

Let’s Look At Separation Anxiety In Toddlers And Preschoolers To See What We Can Do

I have to say before anything else that no matter how good of a parent you are your child is going to have some level of separation anxiety.  We need to look at it from their point of view.  They’ve only known their parents for security their entire lives, so when it’s time to go around others of course there’s some trepidation.  Strangers are scary!  I remember when I was a child I was scared to death of people.  I also remember how afraid my own children were at first.  So what is a parent to do for this very normal reaction to fear?

First, let’s take a look at what separation anxiety truly is.  It can look different in children depending on how they deal with it.  One child may act out by throwing a temper tantrum and another can hide behind Mom and hold onto her leg for dear life.  As long as you watch for it and recognize it you can help them deal properly with these big feelings.  Again, put yourself in their “shoes” and you’ll be more understanding.  Imagine how scary it is to leave the only people you’ve ever known to take care of you.  Yikes!

Some other behaviors can range from crying, clinging on to the parent, tantrums, and all the way up to possibly biting or yelling something rude they don’t mean.  This may look like bad behavior but it’s a part of anxiety and it can be soothed and/or handled correctly.

Toddlers Dislike Separation

Separation anxiety isn’t only going to rear its ugly head when you’re dropping them off at school.  As a matter of fact, I can clearly remember my daughter freaking out as a toddler when I would leave the room.  I assume once she couldn’t see me she thought I was gone.  We have to remember that they don’t have the same thought process that we have.  They certainly don’t have the concept of time which can be pretty darn scary.  Imagine if adults thought this way!

Separation anxiety can be scary but just know that it’s all a normal part of child development.  There’s nothing to worry about or fix.  However, there are certain things we can do to make it easier on them.  We just have to give them the tools they need to deal with it.

Tips To Help

One of the first things you can do with your toddler or preschooler is read books that pertain to the coming event.  If you can’t find a book about it then you can simply talk to them about it.  This way it’s not an unknown scary situation for them.  If it’s school talk about it, read, and possibly meet the teacher beforehand.  Not only will this help them understand what will be happening, but it’s also a bonding time for you and your little one.  After talking or reading you can ask them questions about how they’re feeling.

Another tip is practice going through with what is going to happen.  Even if it’s something like a shot from a doctor/nurse, you can practice it with them so they see it’s not so scary.  Mom/Dad can pretend to be the teacher and have your little walk in and sit down at their desk.  Regardless of what the event is, practicing can help calm their fears.

Another way of practicing would be to start when they’re young and slowly get them used to separation.  I would do this in short bursts so that you don’t scare them worse.  If you do this with your little one you’ll be surprised to see that with time they will get much better with separation.

More Tips!

Whatever you do PLEASE don’t ever just disappear!  This is so traumatic to your child because it’s just sprung on them.  That would scare me as an adult, so imagine how terrible it is for child.  Even if you anticipate a certain behavior, please let them know you’ll be leaving.  Speak to them in a calm, positive voice.  This alone can calm the situation more than you know.

Before taking them to this event, you can promise them something like an ice cream cone or something special.  Even better, you can spend some quality time with them.  However, if you do this please keep your promise.  If you don’t follow through with this it will damage them and they will learn not to trust you.

Regardless of what you choose to do for separation anxiety, please understand it’s completely normal.  We’ve all gone through it and lived!  These transitions will be easier each time you practice them.  Give your little one praise each time they do a great job with separation and good luck!What is urgent care, and when should you use it?

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