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Tackling Separation Anxiety The Smart Way

Tackling Separation Anxiety The Smart Way

One of the most bittersweet moments of parenthood is sending our little ones to school. There is a sheer joy that our little bundle of joy has grown up enough to be away from mommy for a while, and ironically the same is the reason to feel sad too. While there is an excitement that our little birdie is now developing little wings and ready to fly, simultaneously our heart races in fear and anxiety – more commonly known as separation anxiety. 

The first day of preschool can be a mix of enthusiasm as well as concern for our little ones, as well as ourselves. We are either too excited, or anxious – either way, it could be too overwhelming for us. Managing first time separation anxiety can be difficult; the change can be too much to handle, for the little ones, and for the parents alike. 

Understanding separation anxiety – yes it is REAL!

While you would have rehearsed this several times – getting up in the morning, making your child brush teeth all by himself/herself, somehow managing to feed a few bites of breakfast, and ultimately trying to reach the school on time – the first day of school is ALWAYS different from what you plan. Especially the moment when you are asked to “drop your ward at the gate” and wait till she comes back. Those puddles of tears and muted screams (loud in the case of the kids) are proof that SEPARATION IS HARD! 

What to expect:

Kids with separation anxiety most commonly cry a lot, throw tantrums and cling on to their parents – to communicate that they are not happy to leave their dear daddy and mommy. However, some kids also show symptoms that may not be too loud. For example, regressive behaviour, distancing and suddenly forgetting all the training given to them are also some effects of separation anxiety on kids. So if your kid’s bathroom schedule is a bit off, or he fails to get up on time, it may be a sign that something is going on in his little head. 

It might be a little difficult for you too, and that’s absolutely normal!

Separation anxiety might result in an assortment of feelings in you. Although you might be filled with pride that your little one has stepped into the next phase of his/her life, you may also be overwhelmed with the anxiety of leaving a piece of your heart with a stranger. You might also feel guilty of enjoying your “me time”. It is also possible that you might get confused with the increased need of care and attention that your little one starts expecting from you.

Managing Separation Anxiety - 

Here are some of the arrows from the quiver of an experienced mom that might help you deal with separation anxiety -

Display trust and confidence – let’s understand one thing very clearly – your child will mirror your behaviour towards others. Even though it is normal for parents to worry about the change that is going to happen, you need to confront your parental possessiveness and insecurities and trust the place and people your child is going to be with. If you are scared and hesitant, your kid will be too. 

  • Even if you are anxious, you may be required to show some acting skills. 
  • Talk to someone – a fellow parent, or a friend, and share your feelings. The other person’s experiences may change your perspective. 
  • It may also help to get some background information about the school and the teacher through other parents and friends.

Lay the foundation in advance. Most of the time, the anxieties are because of the fact that the school is a new and unknown place. So it may prove a lot helpful if you bring your child to the school a few times before the D-day. If permitted by the school, you can let your child have an experience of the classroom and the toys. 

Goodbyes can be fun too! The best thing about kids is the fact that they enjoy anything that is new and exciting. At times, it is pretty helpful to come up with some exciting goodbye rituals that can help your child get rid of the anxieties.

  • You can try something like a special handshake or high-five. A specific way of hugging and kissing followed by a buh-bye may also be helpful. 
  • You can keep a small toy or mommy and daddy’s photo in your kid’s bag, to let them know that they are never alone! 
  • A special note on your kid’s lunch box, mentioning how much love has been put in making that special snack or lunch leaves a big impact – despite the fact that your kid may not be able to actually read your note! 

Face, empathize and normalize the fear. You need to understand and make your child understand that what he or she is feeling is absolutely normal – that you understand what they are going through. A few words of empathy can help your child in a very big way! 

Routine is very important. How many of you remember waking up half-heartedly, being force-fed and rushed to school? It needs to be understood that kids are at their best when they have had their required zzzzzzzzzz’s, tummy full of healthy food and mentally free! And the only way to achieve all of this is to follow a proper routine. Remember, early to bed early to rise makes a kid healthy, wealthy and wise! Keeping the bag packed and shoes and clothes ready the night before is a great idea and allow the kids to help!

The bottom line…

Breathe in, and take pride in the fact that your little one is attached with you so much that he or she is displaying her outright discomfort and unwillingness to leave you – you have done your job well! With time, the effects of separation anxiety on kids fade away. In due course, your child will understand that you will always be there when he/she returns from school, and that it is just a matter of a few hours and he/she can be back home. Above all, your child will soon realize that they are capable of doing things on their own. 

Your little baby is an independent little person now!

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