How Are You Dealing with Your Child’s Separation Anxiety?

Has your child’s separation anxiety taken a toll on you?  Have you grown weary?  Did you think he/she would have out grown it by now?  Here is the story of how my husband and I created an action plan for my daughter’s separation anxiety…And it’s working!

You Are Not Alone

If there was a poster child for separation anxiety my daughter’s face would have been all over it.  From infancy, my daughter had an attachment to me unlike no other.  Partially normal.  I am her mom.  The one who gave birth to her and who has cared for her day in and day out.  Why wouldn’t she prefer me over others?

Parents Can Have It Too

I actually preferred her too.  While I had to return to work 5 months after she was born, I too suffered separation anxiety from her.  It is in my DNA to be the primary care taker of my children.  However, reality said I needed to work. So off to work I went and for over 5 years we dealt with it…barely.

Fast Forward 6 Years

Six long years of day in a day out fighting the separation anxiety.  Tears, fears and clinging to me before school.  A refusal to go to school.  A refusal to stay with anyone other than me.  Though she loved her dad and sisters dearly, she didn’t want to be with anyone other than me.  I couldn’t leave her in Sunday school, with a babysitter or at after school activities.  Oddly enough, she was happy when she was sick (which was often) because then she got to stay home with me.

“When children are worried about being separated from caregivers. These kids can have a hard time at school drop-offs and throughout the day.” Child Mind Insititute

I Expected Her to Out Grow It

I expected her separation anxiety to improve as she got older, and as she got used to being places without me…like school.  But it didn’t. My husband and I had some serious conversations about how we were going to help our daughter.  We knew she needed to learn that she could trust other people.  We also knew we had to deal with her insecurity and the anxiety she was experiencing.  But how?

“Separation anxiety is a normal stage in an infant’s development.  It usually ends at around age 2.”  Psychology Today

Our Separation Anxiety Action Plan

  1. Address the School Situation

    The first step for us was homeschooling.  Many people disagreed and thought homeschooling would compound the problem. Or as her first-grade teacher said, “She is manipulating you into getting her way.”  For which I was highly offended, but in humility I had to consider that possibility.  After deep thought and prayer…no way.  My daughter wasn’t manipulating me.  My daughter needed what the school couldn’t offer:  one on one learning with a loving and trusted relationship.

  2. Consider How Work is Impacting the Family Positively or Negatively

    I quit my job.  This may not be possible for everyone and for us it was a huge financial sacrifice.  But the long-term benefits to my daughter outweighed the material things we would have to give-up.  Feeling completely planted in God, I knew my daughter’s security would come from a stable stay-at-home mom who could focus on her and our family.

  3. Join a Safe Group Where Friendship and Trust Can Develop

    Wanting to work on skills to help my daughter gain independence, we joined American Heritage Girls.  An organization that builds God-like character in girls and embraces the mother-daughter relationship.  This was perfect.  I would be at every troop meeting (I ended up volunteering as an assistant leader for my daughter’s group). And we would be surrounded by positive girls and their moms.  My goal was to get my daughter to a place where I could walk to the other side of the room without her clinging to me.  We have almost finished our first year and about 7 months into it…success! I can walk away from her (still in the same room) and she feels comfortable!

  4. Build Confidence

    I began encouraging my daughter to do things outside of her comfort zone. For example, ordering her own food at a restaurant.  At first it wasn’t easy and it took a lot of patience, but now she can talk to the waitress and order for herself.  Huge confidence booster!  The more she feels empowered the more she feels like a secure individual.

  5. Give Your Child an Important Job

    I started this blog about 5 months ago.  I assigned my daughter as the VP and illustrator of the blog.  She helps make decisions for the blog and she paints pictures of Twiggy our mascot.  By reinforcing that she is vital to the blog’s success, she has a sense of ownership which has led to self-confidence and independent thinking.  Take a peek at her paintings…they are amazing!

    What important job can you give your son or daughter? 

  6. Face to Face Time

    Talk about everything from God to nature to friendship to self-care.  I have noticed the more my daughter and I have conversations about anything and everything, the more she grows in self-awareness, confidence and critical thinking.  These are vital life-skills that are necessary to becoming a self-confident and happy adult.

  7. Find Social Opportunities for Both of You

    In the homeschool community there are many opportunities to interact with moms and kids. Park days being one of them.  At first, my daughter wouldn’t step foot on the playground unless I was next to her.  She was too afraid to ask kids to play.  But the more I took her to places like this…the better it got.  She started to trust that I was sitting nearby and she could come to me at any moment.  This was a slow process but 18 months later she is like a new person…she runs off to play without fear or anxiety.  She checks in often and she is free to play with old and new friends.

  8. Find a Good Babysitter

    Finding the right babysitter is important to both your child’s separation anxiety growth, and to the health of your marriage.  To learn more about how we tackled getting a babysitter read Reclaiming Date Night When Your Child Has Separation Anxiety.

Separation Anxiety is Hard on the Entire Family.

But it was especially hard on me, her mom.  Mostly because I had separation anxiety myself.  We made a lot of sacrifices, and each one was well worth it.  If you knew my daughter before and after the changes…you would see the beautiful transformation that is taking place.  Her personality has begun to emerge.  She is a smart, funny and tender-loving.  Like me, she may struggle with anxiety throughout her life, but I am confident that we have reached major milestones that will provide life-long skills to help her.

If Your Child Struggles in this Way, I Understand

First, consult a doctor to ensure there isn’t another issue that needs addressing.  For us, the answer was making some pretty bold, brave lifestyle changes.  Follow your God-given gut instinct.  Lots of people have opinions, but they are not in your shoes.  Feel free to drop me a note so I can pray for you.  My heart is for you and I will be cheering you on.  You can reach me at jj@chickeningin.com.

Hugs,

JJ