I often come across mothers cribbing and complaining that their child is always clinging to them or is not ready to leave them and play on their own. This becomes a major issue when children start going to school. Children cry their lungs out, paranoid and frustrated parents and the distressed teachers-the story of every new academic year in every pre- primary school. This is called “Separation Anxiety”.
What is a separation anxiety?
In children, this means the inability of a child to stay away from parents. This inability to cope up with a separation results in anxiety or distress, hence the name -Separation anxiety.
Let us look at some of the ways in which we can overcome this anxiety:
Start early: Separation anxiety for a child and mother begins as soon as the baby is born. We often make it a habit to hold the baby all the time out of love, fear or care. As tempting as this can be, although it can make the baby feel very protective but constant holding and cuddling results in separation fear as they grow. Don’t hold your baby all the time or too often. Letting the babies play freely away from your body helps them grow well. It is ok to let them cry for few minutes as it is a natural reflex of separation. Engaging with the baby from a physical distance is the first step towards overcoming separation anxiety.
Encourage Play time: As the child grows into a toddler, engaging the kids in play dates and encouraging self- play helps them to develop their motor and cognitive skills. Play dates or outdoor plays help them to become curios, exploratory and develop their social skills. While it is important for parents to engage with kids to develop bonding, it is also important to slowly transition them to become independent. Children feel secured when parents are around. It is important to give them that assurance by being around them and at the same time allowing them to freely explore the world.
Mental Preparation: Once children are about to start schooling, parents should make sure they talk to their child and get him mentally prepared for the next phase of separation. It is important to let the child know that it is okay and safe to stay away from mommy or daddy for some time and be under the care of an adult like teacher. Creating excitement about the school, the resources and the fun time that they would have while in school, is something parents should keep talking to their children consistently.
Reading: Books can play a major role in a child’s growing years. Reading relevant short stories can help children overcome their separation anxiety faster as they start relating themselves to the story. They should be assured that mommy will come back to take them back home. This assurance makes the biggest positive impact on a child. It helps the child settle in better.
Every Child is different: Some children take more time than others to settle. This can get frustrating for parents and end in a distressed child who will refuse to go to school. Parent’s vibes can easily rub on children. It is important to be consistent and regular in sending children to school. This will only help children and parents to get into a routine and a routine is important to settle faster.
Saying good bye is important: A lot of parents think tricking the child into leaving in school or turning away faces to a crying child is a solution. This is absolutely wrong. Parents should always make sure that they say a proper goodbye to their child assuring him that they will be back soon.
Parents also need mental preparation: Separation from children can get parents equally anxious. It is tough for parents to see them cry. This is absolutely normal and one must acknowledge this. At the same time parents should not let this emotion over power the need to make children independent and social.
Don’t make it stressful: Overcoming separation anxiety is a process. Sometimes this entire process can take a toll on parents and the child and become very stressful. It is very important to initiate this process at an early stage so that the transitions at every level become easier than the previous.
Let us not forget that we have bought our children into this world to help them grow into independent and smart individuals. Separation is the first step towards this. It is very important for us to be strong, persistent, patient and consistent in doing all that is required to help them over grow this anxiety. After all, if parents are confident, so will be children.