Have you and your husband forgotten what date night is because your child’s separation anxiety has sabotaged all attempts? Crying, sobbing, clinging and fearful words…yes these are show stoppers for us moms. No one wants to leave for a date and worry the entire time about your child’s mental and emotional state. Leaving you and your husband with the only date night discussion topic being…I wonder if she is ok?
Your marriage needs it and actually, your child needs it too.
For my daughter, this was a very important first step. I lined up 3 interviews with possible babysitters. I had each one come to my house for a meet and greet. It was a chance for my daughter to connect with each girl. We asked questions and also asked each girl what questions she had. By the end of the 3 interviews, my daughter and I had a Pow-Wow. We reviewed each girl and I gave my daughter the power to choose (so long as you approve of all of them and in this case, I did). This was the first step in building a relationship between my daughter and the babysitter. This is key to kids with separation anxiety. They need to feel cared for and cared about.
Again, another very important step in building up your child’s comfort level. Don’t skip this step! Take the time to have the babysitter come over to your house when you are home. Let your child have time to get to know her. For the first visit, include yourself in the play date. We played a get-to-know you game (share game printable here). During the second play date start to pull yourself away. Make an excuse like, “I have to take this phone call. Why don’t you take the babysitter to your room and show her your favorite toys?” By the third play date, set the expectation with your child that you will be in the other room while they play. I call this baby-stepping to date night! For us, my daughter was comfortable by the third play date to play alone with the babysitter while I worked in the home office.
Make this date night short…2 hours. You may still get resistance, I did and I had to reassure my daughter multiple times that she was in good hands. Remind your child they hand-picked the babysitter and had time to get to know her. Be confident. Your child will take cues from you. You have set the foundation for her. Tears at the time of departure for the date are normal. Give hugs, kisses and leave. Reassure her you will be back and that she is most important to you. Don’t let the goodbye drag on too long.
Talk with your child about their thoughts and feelings while you were gone. Ask what fun things they did. Remind them that you did exactly what you said. Meaning you were leaving for 2 hours and you returned in 2 hours. Build trust. Kids with separation anxiety need to feel secure. Help your child feel secure by reinforcing how good she did and that you are proud of her for being so brave.
Having a regularly scheduled date night is good for your marriage, and for your child. I noticed my daughter’s separation anxiety decreased with consistency and routine.
We all know a happy family begins with a happy marriage and marriage needs maintenance. Don’t let your child’s separation anxiety cause you to give-up date night. This plan worked for us…it does require reassurance on a regular basis. However, the resistance (crying, clinging and fear) has decreased from severe to mild. Be encouraged you are not alone. I hope these steps will help you reclaim your date nights!!