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Every child goes through separation anxiety. Children usually have separation anxiety between 16 months and 20 months. Some children will display separation anxiety when they start kindergarten or pre-k, usually around the age of five years old. Here are ten tips to help ease separation anxiety in your child.
Tips to Ease Separation Anxiety in Children
- Take child’s favorite – A security blanket is more than just a blanket. If your child needs comfort there is usually an item he or she will hold. Whether the “security blanket” is a blanket, a cup, a bottle, or a toy, you should try to have this item readily available for your child.
If your child is going to be away from you for any length of time, take one of his or her favorite things. You should take your child’s favorite or most used sippy cup, bottle, or regular cup. This will remind your child of home and put him or her at ease.
Take your child’s favorite toy. Most children have one toy they will cling to or constantly play with. The favorite toy is also a source of great comfort to your child. It makes him or her feel secure. If your child can take the toy with him or her, you should let your child take it.
- Tell your kids ahead of time what is going on – Your children may feel less anxious if you tell them ahead of time what is going to happen. Let them know you are going somewhere and you are either taking them to stay somewhere or someone will come and watch them. Let them know what will happen to them while you are gone. Finish with “…and then I will be back.”
- Keep the same routine – Children get used to a routine. When their routine changes, children become anxious and nervous. You want to keep the same routine if at all possible. Knowing about change is less scary than facing an unknown change. So, if you have to change the routine let your child know.
- Offer rewards for good behavior – If your child is old enough to understand actions and consequences, offer rewards for good behavior. You can reward a week of not crying when you drop your child off at school with playtime or something that would be special for your child.
- Leave your child quickly – When you arrive to drop your child off, leave quickly. If you have someone come to your house, leave your child quickly. Don’t give your child a chance to get upset that you are not staying. The more time you take, the greater chance the child will cry or want you to stay/want to go with you. Never make a big deal out of leaving.
- Don’t make a big deal of leaving – When dropping off your child, don’t fuss over your child and make a big deal of leaving your child. A quick kiss and an “I love you” are sufficient. If you make a big deal out of leaving, you’re asking your child to make a scene. If you drop your child off like it is not a big deal, your child will think it is normal.
- Make a big deal out of returning – If you don’t make a big deal out of leaving, your child may not know you were gone. Make a big deal out of coming back so your child will remember, you always return.
- Prepare your child for where they will go – It’s best to explain to your children, where they are going to go so they won’t be scared. Let your child know they are going to a daycare and they will play for a little, have lunch, a snack, and maybe a nap. Then, you will pick them up. If at all possible, let your child visit the facility before you leave them alone there. If you have pictures of where they are going, maybe from a pamphlet, show the pictures to your child.
- Don’t come running as soon as your child cries – To lessen the effect of separation anxiety don’t always go running as soon as your child starts crying. As a baby, your child cries to get what it wants and this includes your attention. If you wait a few minutes to go to your child when you know your child just wants you, you will condition your child to realize you are not instantaneous. This realization will help separation anxiety pass more quickly.
- Let the other parent “take” the child to daycare/school – If you are the primary caregiver, let the other parent drop the child off. The child will be less likely to cry or express separation anxiety because the child has already left the primary caregiver.