Separation Anxiety: When “I will be back” is not good enough

Does this sound familiar…

You are super excited to go out. Your little one starts to scream when you are getting ready. You begin to doubt yourself. You start to think it would be so much easier to just stay home.

Or what about this…

Your child is enrolled in a program or class that it just for them. Your child was pretty excited about it. The day comes when the program happens. Your little one is refusing to get ready, crying as you are going out the door or starts to cry when you get there.

 

It can be so hard as a parent when your child is struggling with separating from you. I understand this completely!! Our little man has gone through many times when he struggles with separating from us, especially me. I honestly have shed many tears over this.

The fact is, it is very normal for children to experience separation anxiety. If the anxiety seems to be constant then I would recommend involving a child psychologist to your team. You can also add some anxiety busting strategies that can be found in a previous article I wrote.

How To Help An Anxious Child

There are a few steps that will help your child with transitions and separation. The steps are as follows:

1. Allow your child to be upset.

We will often try to stop our child from being upset. If they are expressing their emotions we will ask them to stop crying. My belief is that the emotion is better out than in. Once your child is able to express their feelings it gives you an opportunity to figure out what is driving their behaviour.

2. Transitional Object

Giving your child a comfort object to keep with them. If your child already has a lovey this may work. I find that the best object is something of mine that my son really thinks I need. I used to give him my key ring and a business card. The key ring is something I always use. Whenever I came home or picked him up he would give it back to me.

Another really good item to use as a transitional object, especially for bedtime, is a piece of your clothing that has your scent on it. Our little man will go into my closet when I am not home at bedtime and help himself to a shirt of mine he wants to sleep with. He has even ended up with my pajama bottoms on more than one occasion.

3. Keeping your emotions in check

This can be easier said than done. When your little one is struggling with the separation it can be heart-wrenching. It is not the end of the world if your child sees you cry; however, it is important for your child to see you express your emotion while you move forward with the plan.

4. Practice

This means that you keep going out or you continue to bring your child to the program. Over time the separation anxiety will reduce. If there are still issues than I would look at the program to make sure it is a good fit for your child. I would do this after 8 weeks. All behaviour can take up to 8 weeks to see a complete change.

5. Be Present

When you return to pick your child up or when you see your child after you return from your outing, make sure you pay attention to your child. Spend lots of time connecting and playing with your child.

 

As with all things parenting there is no one solution that is right for all children; however, these tips should help get you on your way. If you have any questions about what is written here feel free to send a message to me or ask on the Facebook Group.

The Benefits of Imaginative Play

The Benefits of Imaginative Play

I really enjoy sitting back and watching our young man using his imagination. He is the type of child that will be sitting watching a movie then all of a sudden he starts to act it out. His imaginative play can be quite simple and sometimes he develops these grand stories that go along with his play.

 
What are the benefits of imaginative play?
 
1.  You get a real-life view of how your child is feeling or coping with a situation

If you sit back and watch or engage in your child’s imaginative play (letting your child take the lead) you will learn a great deal about how they are feeling. Play therapy is a tool that many therapists use with young children.

For example, our 5.5-year-old has been engaging in a great deal of play related to not being allergic to things. He has some anaphylactic allergies and some sensitivities. His play has indicated to me that he just wants to be able to eat what he wants. This play has allowed us to have many conversations about how “allergies suck but we can handle it”. This play gives him a chance to work out his frustrations with the allergies.

 
2.  You get to observe your child questioning his environment

Children are constantly watching and seeing how others react and interact in their world. Their minds are filled with wonder. Wondering why things are one way for one person but different for another person.

For example, our son pretends that he has another mother. He does not act out that he has another father. Should I be offended by this? No! This is his way of trying to figure out why his older brothers have 2 homes with 2 mother figures. We have had wonderful conversations about how lots of children have 2 homes. It can also lead to conversations about the different family dynamics that exist.

 
3.  You can role model how to act in various situations

Children are constantly looking to you for guidance in how to act or react in a situation. When children do not know what to expect in a certain situation you can teach them how to act or react by using imaginative play. This is referred to as role-playing.

Children learn a great deal through role playing. If your child is attending a doctors appointment you can role play with her what will happen and things that she may have to do like having her blood pressure taken. We recently had some role playing around getting a needle. Our son used to be great at getting bloodwork done. Well, needless to say, this is not the case anymore. I know he will have to get blood work in the next few months so we are preparing him through role-playing.

 
4.  You get a clear understanding of how your child views your behavior

Remember your child is often watching how you are behaving. If your child begins to act out in a certain way stop and check to see if your behavior is being mimicked. I have seen this a great deal as a parent and as a worker in the child development field. I have worked with a number of parents that were really frustrated with their child’s behavior. It became very clear that the child was acting just like his parent. Our little people can be a mirror of our behavior.

For example, I have the luxury of having people that come in to clean our house every couple of weeks. For awhile, I was noticing all the things that were being missed. I would make a statement that went something like this “man the cleaners…”. Fast forward a few weeks and when we walked in the door to a beautifully clean house my young man, then 4 years of age, would say “man the cleaners..” before I got a chance to even see what was happening. This made me stop and remember that having a cleaner is a privilege that I should be embracing and not be criticizing.

 

Hang on for the amazing ride!

When given the chance to use imaginative play, the sky can be the limit to what you learn and how creative your child will be.  Typically children begin to use imaginative play around the age of 18 months. You can sometimes see this at an earlier age. Usually, you will notice your little one pretending to be on the phone or using another object similar to the ones you use. When you start to see these behaviors, hang on and enjoy watching your little one be creative and explore the world with a different lense!

Feel free to join me in the forums to discuss your child’s imaginative play. I would love to hear stories that your child acts out.

Toddler Forum Preschool/School-Aged Forum