When your child begins school, the long days away from home can trigger separation anxiety or worsen it if it is an existing condition. Because children can verbally express themselves better once they reach preschool age, separation anxiety can appear at its worst, with tantrums and hysterics unlike any outbursts you’ve seen before. This is also the age that children recognize new siblings, and can feel like the attention is going to them; this age is also the age where they feel stress from moving or family illnesses. In this last part of our series on managing separation anxiety in your children, we’re going to give you some tips on how to make it easier on yourself when your child is between 2 and 4 years old.
Tips to Make Separation Anxiety Easier
Telling your child to “grow up” or using similar phrases can often backfire and just make a situation worse for both of you. Rather then saying things that could possibly hurt your child, show affection and understanding and help them build their confidence. Tell them that you understand that they’re nervous, but that you’ve both been nervous before; recall a time where your child was afraid, and how they overcame their fears, such as when going to the doctor or when going on a plane for the first time. Doing this normalizes their feelings and helps your child see that they can get through their feelings of separation anxiety.
You should also try your best to keep moving forwards, not backwards. When your child is showing signs of separation anxiety, they may also begin regressing to past behaviours; such as asking for sippy cups or pacifiers, or insisting on being picked up and carried everywhere. Even if they continually nag you or begin throwing tantrums, try your best to not give in, because the minute you do, you’ve broken routine and it will be much more difficult to break these habits in the future. If you do give in, don’t be too hard on yourself, but just try to stop the regressing behaviour again and just give your child more affection instead. You could try spending more time with them and showing them extra attention, giving them more hugs or kisses when they do their chores or show dependence. Try to involve your child in as much as you can, whether it’s by letting them stir cake batter or having them help you fold laundry.
Separation anxiety is difficult for both parents and children to deal with, but try your best to maintain routine and to show our child affection and understanding. The more routine your child has, the more confident they’ll feel in themselves and that they don’t have to be worried about you abandoning them.