(BPT) – As a parent, you’ve probably experienced the clinging, clutching and crying that often accompany a goodbye when your child returns to day care or preschool after a long holiday break. Separation can be difficult for both children and their parents. Remember, separation anxiety is perfectly normal and can start at any time during the first three years.
The challenge of separation can vary greatly depending on your child’s age, developmental stage, temperament and environment. But there is relief. Child development experts agree families can learn how to ease separation anxiety and manage transitions by developing a predictable routine between the parent and/or caregiver and child – a consistent way to say goodbye.
Saying goodbye helps your child
You may be tempted to sneak out and avoid a scene, but that only tends to make your child more anxious. Creating a consistent and predictable routine will help ease separations that are painful for both of you. The repetition of a goodbye routine will help your child develop a sense of security and facilitate a smoother transition from your presence to your absence and back again.
“Neuroscience has shown that the consistency and predictability will help your child learn to anticipate your return,” says Dr. Victoria Simms, child development specialist and president of the Simms/Mann Institute. “It’s very important for young children to have experiences that promote security. Consistent routines leave a positive imprint on the brain that will help set the stage for easier transitions during times of separation.”
Tips for easing separation anxiety
1. Bring a familiar object from home. Children often find comfort in familiar objects such as a cuddly lovie, toy or blanket. These special items are called transitional objects. By introducing a transitional object early on your child will begin associating it with you and what you represent to them: warmth, comfort, security and most of all, love.
2. Create your own consistent goodbye routines and rituals. Creating a consistent and predictable goodbye routine is key to making transitions easier. Designate a special place in your house where you can focus on each other for a few minutes before saying goodbye. Don’t forget to confidently give your child a hug and a kiss and be on your way.
3. Comfort yourself. When you’re comfortable and calm, your child will feel less anxious and more confident. Remember, thoughtful distress can help you and your child grow and spending the time to say goodbye will enable your child to manage the separation and help your child reconnect with you in a more positive way when you return.