5 Tips for Easing Separation Anxiety in Older Children
Since it's almost September, I'm on a back to school kick right now! Does your school-age child cry or get upset when you leave him, either at school or grandma's or with a babysitter? If so, I have some tips about how to make good-byes on a school morning easier and less traumatic for everyone.
(If your baby or toddler is going through separation anxiety, read this post for tips!)
1. Don't let your kid avoid the feeling.
If your child gets upset when you leave, make sure to acknowledge it. And don't cave in and not go anywhere because you know your child is going to get upset. You still have to leave on occasion and they need to learn that they'll be ok. And it will get easier and easier with time.
2. Talk about how normal it is to be nervous.
New experiences make anyone nervous. Especially the first day at a new school with new kids and new teachers and new routines. So make sure your child knows that it's a normal feeling and that they can move past it.
You can also talk about how it physically feels to be nervous: butterflies in the stomach, heart beating rapidly, sweating, etc.. And remind them that we feel the same way when we're excited. So reframe their feelings to excitement instead of nervousness.
3. Talk about what happens next.
While you're on the way to school, ask them what happens once they get to school. Then what happens next. And next. And then ask them what happens at the end of the day. Which is you coming to pick them up. This technique will help then remember that their day is going to be fun and they forget about their nervousness.
4. Have a goodbye ritual.
The worst thing you can do if your child is upset is linger and drag out the goodbye process. Then they will learn that they the more they cry, the more attention they get. So make your goodbyes short and sweet instead of dragging it out. And come up with a ritual together that you can do every time. It can involve any combination you want of kisses and hugs, fist pumps and high fives. Or a special handshake. Just make it quick and simple and fun.
5. Use rewards.
I know, I know, not everyone believes in rewards. But if your child is having a hard time with you leaving, a reward can turn goodbyes into something fun instead of something to be sad about. And usually rewards fade away over time as easily saying goodbye becomes a habit.
I also want to mention how we as parents can contribute to their separation anxiety. Kids need to know that their parents are ok, even when they aren't around. So if you're talking about how much you're going to miss them and how you are sad to see them go, it's going to make it harder on your kids. They're going to feel guilty when you leave.
So the best way to prevent their separation anxiety from happening in the first place is to let them know that you are ok without them. Make sure to tell them the fun things you are going to do even though you miss and love them.
If your child has separation anxiety when you leave, I hope these tips help! As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.