Successfully Addressing Separation Anxiety in our Preschooler
For about two years now, a friend and I have been trading weekly childcare breaks. Every Friday we alternate – either Kieran goes to my friend’s house for two hours, or her two boys come to my house. I live for those two hours regardless of where the boys play, because I know I can get some things done.
Kieran has always had an elevated case of separation anxiety, so this arrangement has been my weekly respite. It was a process to get him comfortable enough to stay there in the beginning, but he quickly realized how much fun playing at her house is. After that initial adjustment period, we rarely had problems.
Until the third trimester of my pregnancy.
In August, Kieran started crying again when I dropped him off. And in October, he began to flat-out refuse to stay. Each time I tried to walk out the door turned into a full-blown meltdown, complete with him physically attaching himself to my body. It was not pretty.
I chalked his renewed separation anxiety up mainly to my pregnancy. He knew there were big changes coming, and he was clinging to me a little more fiercely than usual. But friends, three months with no break1 had worn me down, and it was time to figure out a way to address both his needs and my needs in a way that would be mutually satisfactory. There was also the fact that Tom and I hadn’t had any couple time in months, and we were committed to going on a date before we had a new baby.
After Tom and I decided that having our date was a priority, we talked a lot about how we would work with Kieran to ease his anxiety. After much thought and a mentoring chat with Amy of Peace 4 Parents, we focused on three big areas:
- Talking with Kieran about the fact that we all have needs and that one of the values our family has is to respect the needs of others.
- Reassuring Kieran that even though the separation might be uncomfortable for him, he would be with a safe caregiver who loves him and that we would be back to get him soon.
- Dealing with our own anxiety about leaving Kieran crying, because the scenario is very foreign and uncomfortable for both of us.
In the next week, I’ll share more about what we did in each of these three areas. Even better, Amy of Peace 4 Parents is going to weigh in with some sage advice on each post. And today I’m sharing some more general ideas and suggestions about how to help your preschooler work through separation anxiety over at Natural Parents Network – check it out!
Has your child ever gone through a later phase of separation anxiety? How did you gently respond to it?
- “No break” is not entirely true – I did get breaks from my husband, who is the best playmate Kieran has. But sitting at home while they’re playing is a little bit different than having a house all to myself, so I really craved the time when I could drop him off at our friend’s house. ↩
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