Top 5 Ways to Handle Separation Anxiety in Children

Our country seems to be making a turn for the better, and as we begin to spend more time together outdoors, indoors, and with other people, our routines might start getting back to normal. For some, this might include physically returning to the workplace, and for others, this may include continuing to work from home, but still needing childcare. Many of you may also work in the early childhood field, and experience new difficulties with children you have cared for years, in terms of separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is a natural reaction/feeling for young children. This can look like many things, such as crying, tantrums, or clinginess. Although these reactions are normal and healthy, they can sometimes create more anxiety for the parent/adult, staff members, other children in the school,daycare, and anxiety for the early childhood educator. Here are some things that may help:

  1. Practice separation – It is OKAY to leave your child. We all do it, we have to do it, and it is normal for it to be done. Do not feel guilty for not being with your child for 24 hours a day. This is not healthy for you nor your child.
  2. Schedule separations after naps or feedings – This is when your child is feeling most content, and it can be beneficial for them to wake up, see you, know you are still there, and then you can actually say goodbye.
  3. Develop a quick “goodbye” ritual – This is so important. The more you linger, the more you are dragging out the inevitable. You have to leave. Say goodbye, give your kisses, handshake, hugs, etc., and leave. The faster you leave, the faster your child can move on with his/her day as well.
  4. Leave without fanfare – Your child may be upset at first, and maybe even for several days. But as your child learns that you will always return, your child will continue to have that trust in your relationship and will gain the confidence he/she needs to be successful and independent at daycare/school without you.
  5. Follow through on promises – If you tell your child you are going to do something, do it, even if it is a threat (which should not occur often). If you break these promises, not only will your relationship with your child lose the trust that he/she gained, but your “threats” and promises will eventually hold no value to your child.

Remember that separation is natural, and necessary for your child to gain independence and confidence in themselves. Although it may be difficult in the beginning, rest assured you are preparing your child for a life of success!

Instructor Tiffany