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Managing Separation Anxiety

Leaving for Work Without a FUSS

Question: My son fusses, whines, and complains every morning when I get ready to leave for work. I have to work, and I want to work, but my son’s attitude makes me feel terrible. Also, this is a lousy way to start the day.

Think about it: Children easily pick up on a parent’s ambivalence about going to work. If you have mixed feelings about leaving your child and going off to work, it’s very possible your child is picking up on those feelings. If you’re leaving your child with a competent caregiver, it’s perfectly okay for you to go to work. As a matter of fact, some people are better parents because of the break that going to work provides them. Reconcile your own feelings so that you can start leaving for the day with a confident, cheerful attitude.

Convey a positive attitude: Don’t get upset and apologize for leaving your child. Try to convey to your child a calm confidence about the situation. Leave for the day with a wave and a smile on your face. Let your parting comments be positive, “You can show me what you paint with your new paint set when I get home. I’ll be looking forward to it. Have a great day!”

Don’t prolong your leaving: Keep your good-bye brief. Have a routine for leaving. Use the same sequence each time you leave. For young children, this routine might include pretending to give your child a “little tiny Mommy” to put in his pocket, and taking an imaginary mini-version of your child to put in your pocket. Some kids enjoy being your ‘helper’ and buttoning your coat, carrying your briefcase to the door, or unlocking your car. They can then send you on your way, which puts them in more of a position of control over the situation.

Take away the mystery: Let your child visit your place of work so he can see where you will be during the day. Allow him to sit in your seat, use your phone or computer, and meet the people you spend your time with. Then, let him check in with you, if possible, at a specific time of the day. You can then explain where you are, and what you’re doing, and he’ll have a mental picture of your workplace. Many children feel better about letting you leave after this experience.

Let him know you understand: Acknowledge his feelings, and help him understand them. But equally important, reassure him and help him deal with the feelings and learn to get by them. “I know you miss Mommy when I go to work. I miss you too. That’s become we love each other and like to be together. I do need to go to work every day. I like my work. You have lots of things to do when I’m gone. You can tell me all about your day when I get home.”


Elizabeth is the mother of four and president of Better Beginnings, Inc., a family source and education company. For more information on tips visit This article is a copyrighted excerpt from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley (NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc.,1999).

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