Dealing with Our Own Anxiety

February 2nd, 2012 by Dionna | 2 Comments
Posted in Consensual Living, Consistent and Loving Care, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

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During my third trimester of pregnancy, our 3.5 year old had a renewed bout of separation anxiety. We were able to successfully address it by focusing on three areas: learning to respect everyone’s needs, providing reassurance, and dealing with our own anxiety. Today I’m sharing how we dealt with our own anxiety, as well as the end result (read the first part of this story here). Also, be sure to check out 13 Ideas to Gently Manage Separation Anxiety over at Natural Parents Network for more tips.

crying boy

Dealing with Our Own Anxiety

Recently, we had to help Kieran work through his separation anxiety so that Tom and I could enjoy some couple time. Our three biggest priorities were to help him recognize that everyone in our family has needs, to reassure him that he would be safe and loved with his caregiver while we were gone, and to deal with our own discomfort in leaving him upset. This last part was the hardest for us – coming to terms with the fact that we would have to leave Kieran crying. I’d already talked to my friend, and she was comfortable holding a struggling Kieran when we left. We talked about it with Kieran in advance by letting him know that being sad was ok, and that our friend would hold him gently on her lap if he needed some help letting us go. We talked about both how much she loves him and how much we love him.

My one regret in all of this is that my friend and I talked about our drop-off plan – I would bring him in, love on him, then hand him over, leaving regardless of whether he was sad. On the day of our date, we decided that it might be easier if Tom dropped him off, but I failed to tell him not to prolong the departure. Tom ended up staying for over 30 minutes trying to comfort Kieran. We feel like that made it much more difficult than it already was.

Wisdom from Amy of Peace 4 Parents

Since our children look to us as an example of how to handle situations and also as an indicator of how safe or unsafe their surroundings are, it is important to simply be aware of how we feel. We don’t need to be hard on ourselves if we feel very sad about separating from our child, nor do we need to beat ourselves up for feeling like we want some time away. Uninterrupted parenting doesn’t work for everyone, and it may actually be detrimental for others. Rest in the fact that you have arranged for trustworthy childcare and you can connect with them at any time to make sure all is well.

Some straightforward ways to deal with our own anxiety include being honest with ourselves, allowing ourselves to feel, breathing into the sensations of our bodies (otherwise known as emotions) while we consciously relax, making choices deliberately through considering potential options and outcomes, and choosing to appreciate even the tough moments. If you feel anxious in preparing for the separation it may help to go over step by step how you will be separating, what you have in place to make it smooth for everyone, the benefits of having some time apart, and what you appreciate about being together. Mentally rehearse any potential scenarios you can imagine for the separation. If you are afraid it won’t go well, imagine how it could or how you can get through the tears. Allow yourself to dream or think positive a bit; it can help.

Also, while you are with your child in the days leading up to the separation, spend some time soaking up the love you share. While you are away from your child or if you feel tense, instead of focusing at length on the stress of being apart, bring the positive experiences to mind so you can recall the joy you have together and will have again soon.

The Result

After Tom left that evening, Kieran did struggle in our friend’s arms for a few seconds. He then sat on her lap and cried for less than 5 minutes and snuggled with her for another 20 minutes. Then he was fine playing with the two boys. Tom and I started out our evening tense and uncomfortable, but we ended up enjoying our dinner out and time alone. We anticipated a chilly reception from Kieran at pick-up, but we were pleasantly surprised when he immediately ran over and kissed both of us.

The next week my friend and I made arrangements for Kieran to come to her house on Tuesday and her boys to come to our house on Thursday. When we talked about it with Kieran, he did cry again and say that he would not go and would hold on to the table. Tom and I both stayed very calm; we talked about how much fun he has there, how we try to respect his needs to stay with us most of the time, and how mama needed some time alone today.

After about 10-15 minutes of the same routine on Tuesday morning, I said “why don’t you just get in the car and see how you feel.” That made him cry harder, and Tom said “we could just go in and see what they’re doing.” Kieran chimed in (very tearfully) with “and we can see how I feel.” We also put his watch on him and told him exactly what time I was coming. I said that a few minutes before that time, I would call and see if he really wanted me to come or if he wanted more time to play – he told me later that he really liked having the option of having me come get him. (He did have me come at the appointed time, of course I stayed and chatted with my friend for another hour and then Kieran didn’t want to leave!)

He did scream and cry when Tom left and my friend had to hold him, but he was over it in less than two minutes. And the best part? In the car on the way home, he told me “the next time you need time to yourself, I’ll just go over there, it’s ok.”

I consider that to be a success!

Has your child ever gone through a later phase of separation anxiety? How did you gently respond to it?

2 Responses to:
"Dealing with Our Own Anxiety"

  1. Elizabeth

    I definitely relate to the idea that sometimes the parent may feel just as anxious about a separation as the child. Thus far, I’ve been lucky enough to only leave my daughter with her dad or grandma, and she is very comfortable with both. She did have a bout of anxiety recently though when she had a cold, and I had a Dr. appointment that I simply couldn’t bring her to, and we had to gently work through it.

  2. Thank you for this. I thought of you as I left my daughter screaming at nursery school this morning, having reassured myself and her that she wasn’t overtired, she wasn’t sick, and I trust her teachers to care for her. She was just having a major case of the Idon’twannas, and I needed her to go to school rather than give in for the third time in three weeks. (They sense weakness, you know :)) So often we think, or people think, that gentle parenting means never letting your child cry, to the detriment of your own life and mental health. You offer a sane and good other way, and I was grateful for the reminder.

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