Many new parents are taken by surprise by the intensity and depth of their connection to their child. Of course, you expect love, but the passion that fuels the love for your child is much more than many people expect. The feelings that grow inside you when you hand your baby over to a sitter or when you watch your preschooler hop aboard a school bus can run the gamut from worry all the way to panic.
Tips for parents who feel separation anxiety
Parent’s separation anxiety is very normal, and can be a big challenge. No matter if your anxiety is slight or intense, and whether it’s short-lived or lasts for years, the following ideas can help you temper your feelings for your own peace of mind as well as your child’s benefit.
Accept that a little bit of separation anxiety is healthy
Don’t look to eliminate all your feelings of separation anxiety. These emotions exist for very good reasons. These feeling will guide you as you make choices about when and how to leave your child. They will help you decide if you are choosing the right caregiver and the right setting. These emotions can keep you close to your child so that you will know if something is wrong or troubling him. Your sensitive antenna will keep you alert to any upsets or problems.
Acknowledge that some separation a good thing
Part of your anxiety is based on the feeling that you can take care of your child better than anyone else can. That’s probably true! However, even if other caregivers don’t do things exactly as you do, it’s likely that your child will adapt and accept these differences. Even more, your child’s world will be filled with people other than you, and it’s a wonderful growing experience for him to learn that different does not mean bad. .
As much as you may miss your child, this is a great opportunity to do things that are easier done without a child attached to your hip. So don’t let the hours pass by nonchalantly. And don’t send the time absorbed in worry or guilt. Make use of the time that your child is away from you in a healthy and productive way. Enjoy your work or your date night. Go for a jog, take a bike ride, go out to lunch, clean your closet, get a manicure, or go shopping. When possible, plan ahead. Create a to-do list and schedule what you’ll do while your child is gone so you don’t find yourself undecided and lacking the motivation to do something.
Curb your nervousness around your child
Children are remarkably perceptive. If you are anxious and worried about your separation from her, then she may create worries based on your modeling. Avoid repeated declarations of love. Don’t make passionate promises of a rapid return. Instead, do your best to be cheerful and relaxed at times of separation. Save your worried face, if you still have one, until the door between you closes.
Set up something for the two of you to look forward to
Plan an activity for when you and your child are reunited. By setting up something specific you’ll enjoy thinking about the joy you will share at that time. Having a specific purpose in mind gives your mind a precise end to the separation and frees you up to do other things until the prearranged event.
This idea can also help your child weather the separation, as she too will have this special event and time together to look forward to.
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution