“Mommy, mommy, mommy,” the child wails, stretching out her little arms, tears streaming down her face. You’ve got to go to work, but your heart is pinched so hard you are almost crying yourself.
This common scene plays out day after day at daycare centers across the world. The child’s stress is obvious and the parent is stressed as well. Commonly known as separation anxiety, most parents and children experience this at some time during early childhood. The good news is that a child’s separation anxiety is a normal stage of development. The trick is to develop some techniques that allow the anxiety to dissipate over time.
Develop a Separation Ritual
Children respond well to structure. Structure gives a child a framework to anticipate what is coming next. So it is important to create a separation ritual that is comforting to the child, that reassures the child of your return, and allows the child to feel safe. Here are a few ideas to consider building into your separation ritual.
- A special kiss that you only use when separating. Perhaps, you’ll kiss the child’s eyes and nose and mouth, or kiss each one of the child’s fingers. Maybe it won’t be a kiss at all, but a simple touching gesture, such as touching your heart and touching the child’s heart.
- Let the child cling to an item for comfort as a part of the separation ritual. Many children have an attachment to a blanket or a stuffed animal or a book. Incorporate the comfort item into the ritual. This helps you child to develop independence and anchors them to something that soothes and comforts them.
More Tips to Ease Separation
- Try to schedule separations when the child is rested and well-fed. Children are easily stressed when they are tired and hungry.
- Keep the separation ritual brief and don’t give in. Even if your heart is pinched, complete the ritual and leave the child as though this was the most normal thing in the world. (Because it is.) The child will soon pickup on your sense of calm and safety.
Developing a separation ritual and using some simple separation techniques will ease a parent’s pinched heart and allow the child to have a positive experience.