Even if you are a stay at home mom, the day will eventually come when you and your child will have to be separated for some length of time. Whether the reason is you deciding to return to work, a kid-free week away with your love, or your baby entering preschool, separation anxiety can hit you both. Daily Mom has compiled 5 ways to help your child through separation anxiety.
Adequately Prepare Your Child
It is imperative that you take your child to visit the school, center, or babysitter they will be going to. We highly suggest you visit with them a few times. Some schools will allow you to come in as much as you want. If you have a nanny coming into your home, make sure the nanny is there at least a few times interacting with your child prior to you leaving them the first day. Continuity is key in life, especially when it comes to children and their care.
Tip: If appropriate, take your child to the school’s playground so they get used to the area and idea of attending. You may even meet other parents and children who attend which will also help to ease separation anxiety.
If you are unable to bring your child to visit the person they will be with or the school they will be attending, show them a picture. However you can, you should adequately prepare your child for this new chapter in their life which will ultimately help ease their separation anxiety.
Something Tangible Can Help Ease Separation Anxiety
Even as adults, if someone feels anxious or tense, something tangible, such as a stress ball to squeeze, can help ease your mind. Using your sense of touch allows you to focus on something other than your anxious thoughts. The same concept applies to children. To help your child through what they are feeling with separation anxiety, merely give them something of yours to take along with them.
Tip: Give your child a few options and let them have some input in deciding what their item of choice will be.
You can send your infant to daycare with a scarf you like to wear with your scent on it as a blanket. Your toddler will benefit from having something tangible such as a stress ball to squeeze when they miss you to send you their love or a matching bracelet to shake and “send their love to you”. Even though you are not there with them, they will still have a piece of you via something that they know is yours or that you have connected to you.
Your preschooler and you can read a special book such as Llama Llama Misses Mama leading up to their first day of school. Purchase a second copy for them to keep in their cubby at school. Write them a special note inside for them to read with a teacher at school when they are missing you. Reading the book at home each night, even after they are in school, can reinforce continuity and ultimately ease their separation anxiety.
Recap Each Day And Provide Insight Into Tomorrow
Newborns have receptive language. As early as day one of their life, you should be talking to your baby and explaining their surroundings to them. The same technique applies when it comes to discussing their day. Upon bedtime each night, it is a great idea to recap your child’s day with them or for them depending on their age. Merely mention the day’s events and provide details as you go. After recapping the day, provide a glimpse into what tomorrow will look like for your child.
Tip: Bedtime looks differently for all kids. In general, avoid telling your child about an upcoming event that may cause them unnecessary anxiety at bedtime. Keep it light, positive, and exciting while providing insight into what tomorrow will look like for them. Remember- you are trying to cut down on separation anxiety, not cause more anxiety for them.
Read more: Raising A Child With Special Needs
Create A Special Moment That Belongs Exclusively To You Two
A child as young as two can understand the notion of a special moment with their mommy. To help you and your child deal with separation anxiety, a special act that belongs exclusively to you two is a great idea.
Establish the idea of your heartbeat always being with you. Help your child find their heartbeat by placing their hand on their chest. Allow them to then feel your heartbeat. When they feel their heartbeat, tell them, “That’s Mama’s love!” Invite them to feel your heartbeat again and tell them, “That’s [name]’s love!” Tell your child that any time they miss you they can feel their heartbeat and your love will always be right there with them. Similarly, when you are missing your baby, feel your heartbeat and know that it is their love you are feeling. While this is just an example, it is one that works tremendously well! We encourage you to come up with whatever works best for you and your little one pertaining to separation anxiety.
Know That Separation Anxiety Is Developmentally Appropriate
Although you are doing a great job trying to prepare your child for separation anxiety, it is imperative to know and accept, that separation anxiety is developmentally appropriate. At times, it is inevitable. Children are used to their primary caregivers. When the day comes that you and your baby need to be apart, some feelings will arise, no matter what you do to prepare the two of you.
How To Help Yourself Through Separation Anxiety
We see you, Mama! We see you being strong for your little one as your heart is completely shattering inside. Use your special moment such as feeling your heartbeat to know that the love you two share is still with you.
You need to have a plan for yourself! For example, on the first day of preschool meet a friend and go for a run, get a cup of coffee, or just have them meet you for support. Have a plan to ease your mind. If you are really feeling that the moment will be devastating, you do NOT want to leave it up in the air and just try to find something to do after dropping your baby off for the first time. Have a backup plan in case your friend wakes up sick or your favorite coffee shop is unexpectedly closed!
As with anything, continuity is key. New routines can take time to become fully adjusted to. Although you are the parent, separation anxiety can hit you, too. Know this is normal and adequately prepare yourself for the separation, as well as your child. Whatever you do- do NOT let your baby see you cry. Save those tears for the hallway. However, do not take it personally if your child separates from you with ease. Whatever happens, know that this too shall pass and the two of you will see each other when the day is through! Take a deep breath, Mama! You can do this!
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