WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR unsafe CHILD DOES NOT WANT TO SWIM? 1 Take Control. You’re the parent. Your child should be obedient to you, not the other way around. You do not allow him/her to play in the traffic, why allow them to choose about swimming, which they do not have the faintest clue on […]
Separation Anxiety: What to do
Erin Boyd-Soisson, Ph.D., associate professor of human development at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania says separation anxiety is “typically most prevalent between 8 and 18 months or so.” Indications of separation anxiety are usually present while a caregiver is departing or has left. Children may cling, throw a tantrum, or resist other caregivers in an attempt to convince the parent not to leave, whether for work or to run an errand. A child can also show signs of fear and restlessness when a parent is in another room, when he’s left alone at bedtime, or is being dropped off at day care. The outbursts usually subside once the caregiver is out of view. “This anxiety serves to keep the child close to the caregiver, who is their source of love and safety,” Dr. Boyd-Soisson says.
Say goodbye when you leave.
Parents who fear their toddler’s wrath, may try to sneak out of the house while he’s distracted — big mistake. This approach may save you the pain of watching your child cry, but it can actually make his separation anxiety more severe. If he thinks you might disappear at any given moment without notice, he’s not going to let you out of his sight.
Help your child look ahead.
Your child understands much more than she can say. Prepare her for your departure by telling her where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Tell her who will watch her and what sort of activities she can look forward to doing while you’re away.
It’s also important to talk about your child’s sitter/teacher with enthusiasm.
Your child looks to you for reassurance, and she’ll be inclined to agree if you say things like, “I think Tanya is so much fun, don’t you?” To gauge how much of your conversation she’s absorbing, follow up with simple questions like, “Where am I going tonight?” or “Who’s going to watch you while Mommy and Daddy go to dinner?”
Look on the sunny side.
You might share your toddler’s apprehension about being separated. But if you let it show any way, even just being hesitant, your child is almost certain to pick up on it. So be very calm and straight forward decisive. (Besides, a dramatic farewell will just validate your child’s feelings of insecurity.)
Try to stay calm and positive – even if he’s hysterical. Talk to him evenly and reassure him that everything is fine and you’ll be back soon. Keep the situation light by adopting a silly parting phrase such as, “see you later, alligator” or your own made-up alternative (“sien jou weer, my teddiebeer”). Getting your child in the habit of responding with, “after a while, crocodile” will also serve as a distraction.
Try a transitional object.
A security object – a blanket, a stuffed animal, or even his own thumb – can be comforting.
Play “name that feeling.”
Help your toddler learn to put simple labels on his feelings. When your child starts to get upset, say, “I know that you’re ‘sad’ that Mommy’s leaving. What you’re feeling is called ‘missing.‘ When Mommy leaves she has those ‘missing’ feelings too.”
“Sometimes all a child needs is a way to express his fears,” says child psychologist Donald Freedheim, founding director of the Schubert Center for Child Studies in Cleveland, Ohio. “Teaching him a name for what he’s feeling helps defuse the anxiety.”
Let him learn to cope.
No parent likes to see her child feeling sad, but coping with separation is an important skill your child needs to learn. Sometimes doing nothing – especially if you’ve already tried everything – is the best advice.
“Learning to cope is an important developmental task,” says Freedheim. “Your child has to learn that there are times when he’s going to be unhappy.”
If your child is so clingy that you can’t even cross the room without a protest, for example, caving to his demands may only make the situation worse. If he’s safe, it’s okay to let him cry a bit. In a matter-of-fact voice, reassure him that everything’s okay, and then go ahead and do whatever it is you need to do – without feeling guilty.
Children go through feelings of separation anxiety for different reasons, but on a basic level, they believe their survival is dependent on having a primary caregiver close by. Toddlers are also still too young to understand the concept of time. Leaving them in a room for a few minutes or with a babysitter or at day care for a few hours feels like the same amount of time for them. So instead of sneaking off, which a toddler can interpret as leaving forever, be sure to say adieu, but keep the parting simple and short. Try to convey that the time apart is temporary and is not a cause for alarm. Also, “somewhat ironically, anxiety can be a sign of the child’s increasing autonomy as they grow older,” says Miranda Goodman-Wilson, assistant professor of psychology at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. “They have their own opinion on the situation — that Mom shouldn’t leave — and want to exert control.”
How Can You Ease Separation Anxiety?
Although it may be difficult to hear a child cry, remember that separation anxiety does have a positive aspect: It indicates that a healthy attachment has bonded a caregiver and child. Try talking a child through the process of leaving; tell him that you love him and let him know you will return. If it helps, offer him a favorite stuffed animal as a soother in your absence. Keeping a regular routine can help children develop a feeling of control over daily situations. Say “See you later, alligator” or share a secret handshake as a clear and consistent indicator when saying goodbye.
“Sien jou weer, my teddiebeer!”