This is a post I originally wrote a few years ago when my children were much younger. So many of us silently battle through the initial daycare/school drop of anxiety. You are not alone. Please pass on to anyone you think this may help...x Sare
From the first moment I drove up to the school gate there has been tears, clinging, bargaining and ANXIETY!! Having nearly made it out the other side, (miss 6 is now fabulous, master 5 still a work in progress), I wanted to share some insights into what can be a truly traumatic event for mum/dad/caregiver and child.
Firstly, you are not alone. Many kids experience separation anxiety. It’s developmentally normal to feel anxious when a parent leaves the room or goes out of sight. As children develop through their own Chakras, there are different ages and stages of separation anxiety. For example, a young child working through the sacral chakra may fret, cry and cling to you when being left with another carer. They are learning independence and you are their bouy...sometimes they will cling to that lifeline when it gets to scary.
An older child working through solar plexus/heart Chakra (school-age child) may become very distressed when left at school. They are learning to trust their own power..and lets face it even most adults struggle here.
About five percent of children have separation anxiety powerful enough to be considered ‘clinical’ . This disorder is most common in kids ages seven to nine. A child suffering from separation anxiety disorder is afraid of separating from their family because of concern that something bad will happen (to you or them) while you are separated. Extreme homesickness and feelings of misery at not being with loved ones are common. They may also refuse to go to school, a camp, or a sleepover, and demand that someone stay with them at bedtime.
It took me a year with my daughter, but she now bounces out the car full of anticipation for her day. so here's my top tips:
1. Give yourself plenty of time, you running late for work will only up the anti and make you both more stressed.
2. Acknowledge your child’s fear – don’t dismiss or ignore it (as irrational as it might seem to you, your child’s fear is real for them).
3. Talk to them before school about a reward/treat if they stay calm at drop off.
4. A good friend taught me a trick called the heart string. Tell your child there is a heart string attached all day, and if they feel scared they can tug on your string and you will send them love.
5. Gently encourage your child to do things their anxious about. Tell them how brave they are. Never criticize for being afraid.
6. Wait until your child actually gets anxious before you step in to help.
7. Allow your child opportunities to make choices and have some control in their own life. Empower them and watch that confidence grow.
8. Teach them the baloon meditation from my previous post. It will help them understand feelings and emotions pass.
9. Give them a secret totem to keep in their pocket (my daughter had a small rose quartz nugget she would secretly touch when she got anxious at school...her brave stone).
What not to do:
1. Jumping in too soon to help – if parents always fix the problem, the anxiety will actually increase over time.
2. Allowing avoidance – every time a parent allows their child to avoid something they fear, they reinforce and validate that fear. So often it would end in tears and screaming, but I would calmly tell my kids, they must face their fears and let a teachet comfort them. (insert go home snd cry myself).
3. Becoming impatient or stressed – try to stay calm and not stress out your child. (a whole year for me...but so worth it)
4.Labelling your child as ‘shy’ or ‘anxious’. Use empowering words like brave, courageous and strong.
And finally, remember separation anxiety is a natural stage, and it ultimately means you're doing a great job. You have a strong unconditional bond of love with your child and at the end of the day that's all any of us want.