Dealing with separation anxiety can be scary for kids, challenging for parents, and stressful for the whole family. It can be hard to understand where the anxiety is coming from and how to help your child navigate big emotions when they are away from you. When kids feel anxious they often ask questions such as “What if you forget to pick me up?” or “Where are you going?”. Separation anxiety can show up around transition times such as starting school, moving to a new neighborhood, or starting a new activity.
Here are 3 ways to help your child with separation anxiety:
Talk about safety and worries: Offer lots of reassurance of safety. Ask them questions and listen to your child’s fears and worries. They need to hear over and over things like “You are safe”, “I will be safe while you are gone”, and examples of how you know the family is safe such as, “We use a house alarm”, or “We get weather alerts”. This may need to be repeated multiple times when your child is feeling anxious.
Be consistent: Try to have consistent routines for your greetings, goodbyes, and transitions. This could be routines like giving a hug before parents leave to go to work, a special handshake when they get home from school or a fist bump before they leave to go to a friend’s house. Special sayings can also be used such as “Bye, Bye Butterfly” when they leave or “Hey There, Teddy Bear” when they return. Just as offering reassurance will help them to regulate their worries, these routines provide predictability and consistency for your child and help them to reduce anxiety.
Increase connection: Engaging your child in quiet connection points during the day like more hugs, kisses or high fives can be helpful. It is really important during this time to be leaning in and providing the support they need when feeling anxious.
These tips can be used for your child and your family to take the steps forward towards reducing anxiety and increasing courage. If you try these tips and other ways to reduce your child’s anxiety during transitions for a while but the anxiety continues, your family could likely benefit from some therapy sessions. Although separation anxiety can be hard to navigate, there are resources available to help your child and your family move forward together.
Written by: Lacadia Jones