Baby: SEP­A­RA­TION ANX­I­ETY I

EV­ERY­THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT

Your Baby & Toddler - - Front Page - BYE BYE BY CAMILLA RANKIN

t can be heartbreaking: see­ing your tiny baby’s face crum­ple as you turn to leave, hear­ing your three-year old’s sobs as you walk out of the class­room, or feel­ing that surge of guilt as your small child crawls af­ter you when you head out for din­ner. Sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety is not easy on any­one, but it is an es­sen­tial, healthy rite of pas­sage and, if han­dled prop­erly, is your child’s first build­ing block to­wards se­cure, suc­cess­ful and happy re­la­tion­ships.

Here is all you need to know about sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety and get­ting through it un­scathed.

teacher or care­giver, and your child if you keep reap­pear­ing. COME BACK WHEN YOU SAID YOU WOULD: If you said you will be there when she wakes up from her nap, or af­ter snack time, then be there. Of course there will be times when you are late, but at first make every ef­fort to be on time. For those times you can’t, let the teacher or carer know, so that they can pre­pare your child. BE CAR­ING: anx­i­ety doesn’t go away, de­spite a par­ent’s best ef­forts. Some chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ence in­tense and re­cur­ring bouts of sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety be­yond four years old, some­times even into pri­mary school. If these pe­ri­ods in­ter­fere with ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties like school, play­dates, and friend­ships and last for months rather than days, it could mean that your child has de­vel­oped sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety dis­or­der.

“There are many rea­sons why sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety could re­oc­cur or in­ten­sify: lack of re­li­able and pre­dictable rou­tines, trauma, ar­gu­ing or di­vorce, a par­ent’s de­pres­sion, ad­dic­tion or ill­ness,” sug­gests child and fam­ily ther­a­pist Geral­dine Thomas, “but at the core is the child’s anx­i­ety about her own emo­tional safety, her par­ent’s un­re­li­a­bil­ity or fears about their par­ent’s well­be­ing while the child is not there.” If this is the case there are a num­ber of things you can do to help. The first is “to recog­nise how your own be­hav­iour may be seen as out of con­trol or un­man­age­able by your child,” ex­plains Geral­dine. An­other step is to re­as­sure your child that you will be fine while they are at school, tell them what you will be do­ing that day (even if you have to make some­thing up) and re­as­sure them that you will be fine and that you look for­ward to be­ing to­gether at the end of school. Geral­dine also sug­gests writ­ing a short note telling your child that you are think­ing of them and leav­ing it in their school bag or lunch box, or giv­ing them a num­ber to call if they are re­ally wor­ried. “If it goes be­yond that, then seek­ing pro­fes­sional help for the fam­ily may be a way to re­gain emo­tional reg­u­la­tion and a sense of emo­tional safety for the child and par­ents too,” says Geral­dine.

The key to weath­er­ing the storm of sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety is by be­ing em­pa­thetic and con­sis­tent. START SIM­PLE: Play­ing games like peeka-boo, or drap­ing a cloth over your 9-month-old’s face, which he pulls off, all help kick-start the process by help­ing him to un­der­stand the con­cept of ob­ject per­ma­nence. KEEP IT FA­MIL­IAR: Al­ways leave your baby with some­one he knows and trusts: granny, nanny, or friend. If it does need to be some­one new, then set up a time be­fore­hand to in­tro­duce your baby where you can be in the room while the care­giver and baby play and in­ter­act. KEEP IT SHORT, AT FIRST: Ease your­selves into times apart by only go­ing out for

This is hard for your child. Years of psy­cho­log­i­cal re­search has shown that an at­ti­tude of “pull your­self to­gether”, or “toughen up” only leaves chil­dren feel­ing vul­ner­a­ble, and cre­ates a dis­trust and distance be­tween par­ent and child. It is not easy to see your child up­set or crying. You may feel guilty or worry in­ces­santly about him when you are apart, and a clingy child that won’t let you put him down can leave you feel­ing ex­hausted, over­whelmed, and even re­sent­ful. It is okay to have all these feel­ings. Just keep re­mind­ing your­self that sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety won’t last for­ever, and is a sign that your child has a healthy at­tach­ment to you and is learn­ing to stand on her own two feet.

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