Overcome Separation Anxiety for Preschool Children

Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Anonymous, Vanessa Alexandra Avisado, Eng and 3 others

As kids move forward, from infancy, their world naturally expands. They will find themselves in various situations that will take them farther away from the comfort of their own homes, and the protective arms of their parents. Each child is unique and has his own way of dealing with such separation. Fortunately, there are ways you can try to overcome separation anxiety for preschool children.

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    Turn it into a game.
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    You can lessen separation anxiety by making it less overwhelming for your child. Try to be as casual and possible and don't make a big deal out of it or fuss over him too much. Playing games during this time can be very helpful if you incorporate separation into it. You can try hide and seek in the house, then in the playground, and eventually this will be a lot easier when done in school.

    Treasure hunting is another idea. You can put clues in your back yard and make sure there's a nice surprise waiting for him at the end. You can add cute tokens that you think he will like. Remember to stay in one place so the aspect of separation in the game can be enhanced even more. Just let him wander around freely and wait for him to find you. Every time he finds a "treasure," he can yell "Yipee!" or clap his hands. Don't forget to yell back in encouragement as well.
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    Help your child know what to expect.
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    Just like any other person, children are scared of the unknown. You can ease his fears by talking to him and let him know what to expect in advance. For instance, if you're leaving him with Auntie Julie (your sister), let him know where you're headed, why you need to leave, the fun things he will be doing with his aunt while you're gone, and the time he can expect you to return.

    Make sure that you are very specific about the things you tell him, so he knows what to expect. Make the idea of separation as pleasant as possible so he will be relaxed and comfortable when the actual time comes. It's better to start early, but learn to adjust according to your child's age and understanding. It's a good thing, though, if you tell him about your imminent departure days in advance.
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    Reassure your kid that you are definitely going to return.
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    When you're gone, your kid will want to know when you are going to return. Don't leave him to speculate, as this will increase his anxiety even more. Also, avoid being too specific about the time you'll be coming back because his attention might be glued to the clock. Instead, tie it to the affair/event pertaining to your departure. For example, tell your child you have an important business meeting but you'll be back as soon as you are through. Don't give him exactly an hour or two, in case unforeseen circumstances prevent you from being right on time.
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    Have a thorough understanding of your child's anxiety.
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    Know that your child's separation anxiety is natural. As a matter of fact, it is your child's way of showing his deep attachment and love towards you. It's not something he can easily control on his own, nor is he doing this to simply annoy you. Remember that children go through this phase, and he will be able to outgrow this in time, so you just need to be patient with him. Children can't always explain their feelings very well, but they know they don't feel good about it.

    This kind of uncertainty takes many forms, from temper tantrums to misbehavior or being fussy. Sometimes, he'll even push you away and you'll wonder why when he is normally so attached to you.
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    Give him enough time to adjust.
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    Allow him to warm up to events and situations and avoid forcing him into it when you know very well he isn't ready yet. Gently and gradually ease him out of his comfort zone, starting with observation, allowing him to learn more about it, or just merely letting him watch from the sidelines. When he gets the feel and idea of how he's going to fit in, he'll be brave enough to jump in. Assure him that he can take as much time as he wants just watching and observing and you'll be there for him until he's ready to go. You will see that your child will be more relaxed, knowing he's not being pressured to get involved.
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    Slowly introduce him to new faces gradually.
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    When you introduce your kid to somebody new, make sure you have your arm around him or hold his hand. Start out with a simple hello. You don't have to require him to engage into a conversation right away. If this new person is talking directly to your child and he is unsure how to respond, you can do this on his behalf. It's important that he feels secure and relaxed during this time, making it easier for him to build his confidence.
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TIPS and TRICKS to make Parting Ways Easier - for both of you

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    Conduct a dress rehearsal.
    You can better prepare your child for upcoming events when you try and do it his way by playing make-believe. Do this a couple of times in advance when you are about to get into a new situation. The game must be a "replica" of what will truly happen in the actual event. For example, if your kid will have to spend the afternoon with his new nanny, try dressing up like his nanny for a while, and be fun and cheerful while you're at it.

    Details count, so the doorbell must also ring, walk in, utter a cheerful hello, go through what's going to happen during the afternoon, then say bye-bye to imaginary mommy. Once the make-believe mommy is away, go through the possible events that might take place. For instance, your role as a nanny will make her favorite snacks, read her favorite books or play her favorite games - things which they will actually do with the real nanny.
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    Find ways for your child to explore his independence.
    Don't start with a major event of long-term departure and separation. Instead, allow him baby steps to explore his independence. You can practice by frequenting your local park, and once he's busy playing with the other children, maintain a short distance from them. You could sit on a park bench, as long as he knows where you are and you can keep your eyes on him all the time.
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    Check out places in advance.
    If your kid is going to be left in school for the first time, visit a couple of days ahead of time so you can really check the place out. This way you'll have time to introduce him to his new teachers, play with toys and show him around so he can familiarize himself with the new place. Then try not being there all the time; step back once in a while so he'll get the feel of what it's going to be like without you. When you get home, talk about the experience and see how he feels about his new school or daycare. Make him feel confident and that you're sure he's going to have a blast once school starts.
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Learning how to overcome separation anxiety for preschool children cannot be achieved overnight. It takes patience, planning, monitoring, and a deep understanding of your child's thoughts, emotions, and insecurities for you to get through to him and help him overcome all his fears. In time, you may be surprised, and could even find that he's the one comforting you, and not the other way around when you temporarily part ways and say your goodbyes. Good luck.

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Categories : Parenting

Recent edits by: Maria, Lynn, Eng

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