It’s one of the secrets of parenthood: Not just children get separation anxiety! Many parents are unprepared for the feelings of sadness and emptiness they have when separated from their children. The emotions that pop up when you leave your child with a babysitter or when you watch your child drive away on the school bus can span from a dull ache all the way to worry and panic.
Know that your feelings are a sign of love
Those feelings are a natural part of your intense love for your child. Even though it’s natural, it can be a big challenge.
No matter if your anxiety is slight or intense, these ideas can help you understand and temper your anxiety, and allow you to relax and even enjoy those times when you are apart from your child:
Don’t try to eliminate your apprehension. These emotions exist for very good reasons. They are part of your hardwired parenting protective device! Feelings of unease can guide you to make choices about when and where to leave your child. These instincts can help you choose the right babysitter, daycare or school situation for your child. Your intuition will keep you alert to any potential problems when you part from your child. Pay attention to your feelings and cue in to where they are originating.
Accept that separation can be a good thing. Some of your nervousness is based on the feeling that only you can take the best care of your child - that you know your little one better than anyone else. That’s true, of course! However, even if other caregivers aren’t exactly the same as you, it’s likely that your child will adapt and accept these differences. And you know what? Your child can be blessed by a world filled with people other than you, as everyone can teach something unique.
Use these calming techniques. As much as you may miss your child, this is a great time to do things that are easier done without a little one attached to your hip. So don’t let the hours pass by casually. And don’t spend time absorbed in worry or guilt. Use the time in a healthy and productive way. Enjoy your work or a date night. Go for a jog, take a bike ride, go out to lunch, clean your closet, get a manicure or go shopping. When possible, plan ahead. Create a list or schedule of what you’ll do while your child is gone.
Be calm and positive around your child. Children are perceptive. If you’re stressed about your separation from her, then she may create worries based on your modeling. Avoid great declarations of love. Don’t make promises of a rapid return. Instead, act cheerful and relaxed.
Plan an activity for when you are reunited. By setting up something specific, you’ll enjoy thinking about the joy you will share at that time. It could be something as simple as reading a book or going for a walk. Having a specific purpose in mind gives your mind a precise end to the separation and frees you up to do other things until the prearranged event. This idea can help your child also as you’ll both have this special event and time together to look forward to.
Elizabeth is a mother of four, and author of the bestselling No-Cry Solution series on topics such as sleep, discipline, picky eating and potty training. She is known worldwide as the voice of practical, respectful parenting. Visit her new website, nocrysolution.com.
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