PARENTS

Dealing With Separation Anxiety In Parents And Children

26/05/2009 10:01 | Updated 22 May 2015

Though your baby starts its life entirely dependent on you, there will come a time when you will have to trust it to another person's care.

Babysitters, extended family, nursery; playgroups, childminders or nannies: all may require you to leave your trusted bundle with them

As your child gets older and becomes more independent, you will find yourself waving them off on sleepovers and school trips.

What do you do if your child cries when you're leaving them with another carer? Is it better to slip away when they're happy or make a point of saying goodbye, even if you know this might upset them?

How do you help your child become independent and trust others when you don't really want to say goodbye?

Separation Anxiety has been reported in babies as young as six months old. At this age, they start to realise that they can be separated from their caregiver, but not that that person will return, or how long they'll be gone for. So these are things that we have to reassure them about.

Upsetting as it is, separation anxiety is still a normal part of children's development. For some children, it lasts until they start school. So if you're worried about your reception child clinging to your knee, rest assured we've all been there, and it does get better.

When you first leave your young child with someone new, yes they are very likely to cry. But once they settle down, they should quickly cheer up. Try peeping back in the window next time you drop them off at nursery, they'll probably be engrossed in a toy within seconds.

When you have to leave your child

Settle them in

If you're leaving your child at nursery for the first time, take a few sessions to let them get used to it.

Don't just drift away when they're otherwise occupied. Say goodbye so that they know you're leaving, otherwise they may get unsettled if they think that you're still there when you're not. Give them a sense of when you'll be back, maybe after lunch or after their nap.

Don't hang around -- leave promptly

Otherwise you might confuse your child as to whether you're staying or not. If you show that you are happy to leave them, you make it more likely that they will be happy to stay. Be calm no matter how they react. Even if you're feeling anxious about leaving them, do your best to make sure they don't pick up on it (easier said than done, I know).

Bring a favourite toy, or something familiar from home. For older children, give them something small and familiar that they can put in their pocket and hold if they feel anxious.

When your child leaves you

It can be a bit unsettling for a parent as your child gets older and being away from mum and dad is no big deal. My nine year old daughter recently went on her first school trip for two nights away. I had to bite my lip as I was waving her off to stop myself from being visibly upset. She, on the other hand, was happily planning who to share her dormitory bunk bed with.

As long as you trust the adult who'll be with your child, letting them be away from home can be a valuable way to build a child's confidence. I think there would be something seriously wrong if we didn't miss our children when they start to go away from us. Love them, but let them go. Their road to life as an independent, confident adult has already started.

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