Separation anxiety: How to gently manage every situation between you and your child.
The tears, the fights, the heartache and the frustration. All common factors surrounding separation anxiety that parents will know all too well.
Maybe it’s something that occurs daily in your house or perhaps just every so often, either way, it’s draining and takes a real toll on your emotional wellbeing. So having a gentle, calm approach can really help when it comes to managing the moment you feel your child starting to worry and even prevent it from continuing in the future.
As a career nanny, I spent hours and hours comforting children when their parents left for work or to go on holiday by themselves for a few days. From this, I soon started to notice what did and didn’t work when it came to calming and reassuring a child that showed clear signs of struggling each time their parents left.
It is 100% normal for a child to feel this way about being separated from their parents.
Here’s what I observed and learned throughout those years, plus gentle ways to implement various behaviours to help create strong emotional foundations with each child.
All views are my own, and every parenting style is to be completely respected.
- Acknowledge and comfort whilst remaining the adult
You are their support, their role model and their safety. Why wouldn’t they want to be with you all of the time? We know why they can’t, but they may be too young to understand this depending on the age of your child.
Acknowledging and compensating with their fears and worries is completely normal and should be voiced in a tone that aligns with their own such as “ You’re crying because you want to come too and that makes you feel sad, but I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been building with your blocks when I come home.” There may be more kicking and screaming, but you’ve remained in charge and the adult, and children tend to feel safer at such times this way.
- Positive language
Expressing that you understand how they feel, without labelling certain terms on them is crucial when it comes to ironing out any future social anxiety occurrences. This isn’t to say you need to completely ignore your child’s emotional needs or personality but will help in building those strong foundations from a young age and help you to feel less guilt along the road too. It also enables you to empower your child to better understand how they feel, why they feel this way and that it’s ok, but in turn, understand you are in charge. Began by weaving all words into short, positive sentences without space or need to justify why you need to go out. They will in turn respect this and start to become used to the fact that sometimes, adults just need to do things on their own!
- Sneaking is cheating
Children will only feel even more upset if you suddenly just disappear. It happened many times that I was on duty, and I never once saw it have a positive effect. Yes, the child calmed down eventually, but they were left wanting answers and confused. The best way to ensure you can leave quickly (if in a hurry) and not have to tackle a screaming child from around your leg, is to avoid joining in the chaos that is the storm. Show them your calm attitude and use reassuring, confident, positive words as you leave.
- Don’t over-complicate the situation
We all have lives before and after children, and I believe nothing should change. If you over analyse a situation, it will create a snowball effect time and time again to the point where you feel you can no longer go to the bathroom without your child panicking. If this is what works for you and your child then you should absolutely continue this way, but for some that would like the option to go out alone and have to leave their child for work or other situations, less really is more.
At the end of the day, we all want our children to feel safe, secure and loved. Heading out without them isn’t a sign that you feel any less about them, it’s all about how you react and respond as the adult they adore and look up to. Modelling confident, calm, sympathetic behaviour is something we should feel proud to pass on to our children, and traits they will thank us for later in life.
Do what’s right by you and your family because that’s all that truly matters.
by Former Career Nanny and now Childcare specialist recruiter at The Lady, Lucy Boulton. She has over 12 years’ experience with children of all ages. With a passion for exceptional childcare and giving advice, Lucy is delighted to be offering regular blogs alongside helping families find the perfect nanny through the services provided by The Lady.