By Ayesha AlJanahi (@_AyeshaAlJanahi)
Separation anxiety is “a child’s apprehension or fear associated with his or her separation from a parent or other significant person. ” It is normal in young children during their first six years of life, but sadly, it creates a cloud over the joy of early childhood, creating many tears from children and much confusion for parents and caregivers.
Transition is a natural part of growing up but children do not seem accepting of the safety removal from their personal life when parents convince them to have fun with unfamiliar people. They start to suffer a sense of worry, non-acceptance, loss and they cling tightly to their parents. The dramatic reaction of separation anxiety commonly appears at schools, nurseries or any family gathering.
Parents trying to figure out how to handle their children’s transition can make them respond in a variety of ways. Some parents will totally support their children by giving them encouragement and suitable praise. Others will fear it and wish it away so they will treat children with criticism, punishment and ridicule.
As children pass through the various stages of life, they go through various transitions, which is a natural part of growing up. If we give them enough support and love, they will view change as a positive experience, more so than a child who has been harshly punished and ridiculed. Try to embrace their anxiety as a positive indication of their love. If you think about it, it is actually a wonderful indicator, since it is proof that the attachment you have been working so hard to create between you and your little one is holding. Over time, your child will be more aware that if you separate from them, you will always return eventually. Meanwhile, until your child matures enough to learn and get over separation anxiety, try to use some techniques to ease the process. Always remember that every child is unique and since you know your child best, you will be able to put together a good plan for your child and use gentle ideas to help them adjust to periods of separation.
You can play some separation games with your child like hide-and-seek where you can play in the house or at the beach or at a family gathering. The game demonstrates that people still exist even if children cannot see them and it is more than fun when they come back.
Give your child some “Alone Time” in bed. Many parents think their babies can never be awake and alone so they must tend to their needs. While this may have come from old good parenting philosophy, you need to understand that your baby can enjoy alone time to learn that they can be their own best company. Some parents are not aware that children can wake up after a nap and are pleased to look around and play with a toy or daydream. However, this can really help children get rid of negative feelings of separation anxiety in many situations. They may be small things, but they do make a big difference.
While your child is distracted or asleep, do not sneak away. Many parents think it is easier than a tearful goodbye but that will diminish their trust in you. Disappearing when they are unaware will cause them confusion and worry that you may go away at any given moment in the future.
When you drop off your child at nursery or school, come up with a goodbye ritual that can make them more relieved. Invent a ritual like “I promise when I am back we can go and buy some chocolate.” While you want your child to accept that you will leave, do not drag out the goodbye too long. The longer you make the goodbye process, the more you fill your child with anxiety and confusion.
Express a positive attitude when you leave your child because they do not only observe your actions but they also absorb your feelings. Keep in mind that if you are confident and relaxed, they will get the message that they should feel the same as well.
Your child does not know much about the world and they do not understand the idea that when you leave them, you will come back. They do not know that others can meet their needs just as well as you do when you are not there. They feel so relaxed and safe when they are with you so it makes perfect sense that they will be completely anxious when you are away. The development of separation anxiety indicates that your child is developing intellectually. This stage, like many others, during childhood will pass and by time they will be able to realize that it is okay to stay away from you for some time. The basis of separation anxiety is love so it should be handled with respect and care.
Written by Ayesha Al Janahi and supported by Arabian Child organization
Visit www.arabianchild.org for more information about early childhood education in the United Arab Emirates.
21st Issue – December 2011
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Beyond Inspiration – Community Talk – Food For Thought
Interview – Just Another Undergrad – Sense and Sustainability – Society of Tomorrow
The First Years Last Forever – The Mind’s Eye – Too Blunt For Words – Words, Observations, and Ramblings
A loving mother of a son who has changed her life and put it into perspective. Ayesha is a senior social media specialist, a Global Leader for young children in the Arab region, and a writer in few Arabic publications. Her column is written in collaboration with the Arabian Child organization, and offers inspiration and an in-depth exploration of early childhood development.