Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is loosely defined as the fear of being away from the primary caregiver.

Jan 6, 2024
With the start of the new school year, let us take a closer look at Separation Anxiety.

What is Separation Anxeity?

Separation anxiety is loosely defined as the fear of being away from the primary caregiver. Source
While separation anxiety has historically been thought of as an issue in childhood only, the DSM-V updated the diagnosis to be inclusive of adults as well.
Hence, there have been times when the parents were the anxious ones and this anxiety is being projected onto their little ones.
Here is the FIRST step that you can take to minimize separation anxiety (both for your child and you!)

Practice makes Perfect!

Practice being apart. Ship the children off to grandma’s home, schedule playdates, allow friends and family to provide child care for you (even for an hour) on the weekend. Give your child a chance to prepare, experience, and thrive in your absence! Source
You can even practice at home! One way is to start allowing your child some time to play on his own in a safe setting. You can begin by saying, “Oh! Mummy needs to go to the bathroom for a while. Mummy will be back soon, ok?”
Starting from a few minutes, you can gradually increase this time apart until your child is confident enough to spend time on his own in prolonged periods. We can’t wait for school to start!
Talk about school a few days before it starts and excite your child. You can talk about all the songs he will sing, the friends he will make, the books the teacher will read for him and the food that he is going to try with his friends!
You can start counting down to school and pack your child’s school bag together with your child, in joyful anticipation.
The time has come!
The first day of school is finally here.

Here are some phrases you should avoid:

Don’t cry, ok?
Don’t be scared.
It’s ok. Mummy is here. Mummy will wait here.
These will put fear in the child even if he is not feeling it initially.
You go in, ok? Mummy will bring you to the playground later.
Be a good boy and follow your teacher ok? Mummy will buy you your favourite cake later.
The child will start associating going to school with extrinsic rewards. Before you know it, you will run out of ideas of what to ‘reward’ him with. Instead, say:
Have a good time with your teacher! She will take good care of you.
Later, tell mummy about all the new things that you learn/do in school ok?
Look at your friends! Have fun playing with them!
Eat well during lunch! Enjoy your food with your friends!
These will help your child to associate the school experience with everything wonderful.
Have a splendid time with your child preparing for the first day of school!