“I Want My Mommy!” Separation Anxiety in Young Children

“I want my mommy!”

Being separated from what is known and comfortable can be difficult. Some children say goodbye and hop right into the classroom without a backward glance. Others have a hard time leaving the protective arms of the parent. Sometimes it is the parent who has a hard time letting go. The behavior points to a close, trusting relationship between you and your child. Be encouraged. Your child is growing and moving to the next stage of development. And it’s perfectly normal, truly.

What are the most common reasons for separation anxiety?
1. The child fears parent will not return.
2. Young children have no concept of time.
3. Fear of strangers can make children apprehensive.
4. Some children have difficulty with transitions.
5. The child may be ill, tired or experiencing too many life changes.

As parents, we are not usually the cause of the separation anxiety, but we can make things better or worse.

Here are a few tips to ease the anxiety in the transition to preschool:
• Pray for a smooth transition for you and your child.
• Read children’s books about going to school and being courageous.
• Give your child something to love from home; a small piece of his blanket, a stuffed animal he can keep in his cubby.
• Try spritzing the item lightly with Mom’s perfume or Dad’s cologne.                                                                                                                                  • Send a photograph of your family in a plastic bag.
• Greet the teachers warmly. When your child sees you building a relationship, the child will be more likely to do the same.
• Laugh with your child! It’s hard to be anxious in the middle of a belly laugh.
• Empathize, but be firm. Do not scold or bribe. Everyone has a job to do, school is your child’s job.
• Focus on the positive things that happen at preschool. Don’t dwell on fears.
• Limit TV viewing, especially scary shows.
• Everyday, tell your child, “I love you. I’ll always come back for you.” When leaving, give a quick kiss, hug, and cheerfully say goodbye. Think Band-Aid!
• Avoid lingering or returning to the classroom to see how your child is doing. But don’t sneak out of the room. A clearly stated goodbye builds trust. Avoid the temptation to show up at the classroom prior to the end of the school day. Rather send a message that tells your child he is capable.
• Read children’s books that deal with separation anxieties. The Kissing Hand is a wonderful book. Make a small heart or “xo” on your child’s palm. Tell him to look at his hand to remind him that you love him and will return when the school day is done.

© 2017 Becky Danielson. All rights reserved.

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplashed.

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