Separation Anxiety: When It’s Hard to be Apart

Separation anxiety as defined by Merriam-Webster is a form of anxiety experienced by a young child caused by separation from a significant nurturant figure (typically a parent) or from familiar surroundings.

Separation anxiety as defined by a parent is a heart-wrenching experience that can truly ruin your day.

separation anxiety 300x199 Separation Anxiety: When Its Hard to be Apart Photo

Sometimes separation anxiety continues beyond the first day of school.

As a mom, I have learned that every child is different which makes them special and unique. Other than the very first week of school, my eldest daughter never had any type of notable anxiety when I left her. On the other hand, my youngest daughter, who is now four, cries every day that I drop her off at pre-school.

She starts to become tentative on the car ride, and as we get closer, I can see her little face shift from happy to sad in a matter of seconds. It’s as if she plans it. She actually even tells me the night before school that she is going to cry the next day as if she expects me to say, “Oh, you can stay home then, Honey.”

When I drop her off, she tries to hold it back but inevitably she breaks down and begins crying, hugs me, and tries following me out of the door. Talk about stressful!

The school staff is really great about calming her and getting her to shift her attention as I swiftly make my getaway. From what they tell me, she’s fine within minutes and is off playing with her classmates. As I pull off, however, my heart breaks and I realize that the adage, “this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” is so true.

We have attempted many tactics to try and alleviate the situation including:

  • discussing why she cries and helping her understand that we will always come back to get her
  • making a chart where she gets a smiley face for every day she doesn’t cry and a small prize at week’s end
  • keeping the ride to school upbeat and trying to make her laugh
  • talking about what we are doing after school to give her something to look forward to
  • diverting her attention as I leave school

Ironically, at the end of the day when I pick her up, she is happy and actually wants to stay and play. Go figure! This makes me feel good in the sense that I know she actually enjoys school.

As hard as it is right now, I realize that this too shall pass and I will chalk it up as yet another stage that she will outgrow.

If you have any advice on how you have handled separation anxiety, please share it with us!