You know that sound….
The one that shoots straight through your heart…..
Your child screaming and crying for you as you turn your back and leave, hiding your own tears.
And no matter how many times you tell yourself that it’s important for them to separate from you – you know it’s good for both of you – it still breaks your heart a little every time it happens.
Sometimes it means forcibly putting them in the car…. or trying desperately to remove them from the car.
Sometimes it means tearing their little hands and legs from you, as they desperately cling to you…as though their life depended on it.
We have had issues on and off over the years around separation anxiety, as most families have. At one point my daughter experienced a traumatic separation. She literally pulled her own hair out! That was one of the hardest times for me as a mother.
Thankfully with a lot of work we were able to move past that, but heading to pre-school has been quite the experience for us at times.
Initially they were both quite excited about it (as is sometimes the case). Then when they realised that this would be an ongoing deal, the dreaded separation anxiety kicked up a notch.
We would have tears, meltdowns, worried pacing, school refusal and guilt trips….
Of course, we have read many books to help them work through this and these are the ones I found most helpful:
- The Invisible String
- Llama Llama Misses Mama
- The Kissing Hand
- Mama Always Comes Home
- I Miss You Stinky Face
I would also say that it’s really important not to minimise their worries/concerns. For them it’s a valid fear.
While validating their emotions, you also want to really focus on connection.
To that end, here is something that I have found that helps us.
We call it our Love Connection.
And here’s how it works:
I find it helps to really overreact when they press theirs – make it look like you just got zapped by electricity. Sound effects help! Bzzzzzzz
Let your child’s teacher or whoever will be with them know about your love connection and how it works. That way they can encourage your child to press their love connection throughout the day or even say: “Oh, did you feel that? I think Mummy has just sent you some love through your love connection!”
The more animated and dramatic you, and others involved in your child’s care are, the more likely they will buy into it.
Thankfully our love connections have worked well. To support this we have also created calendars to show which days are School Days, and which days are Mumma Days.
The more stability and predictability you can provide for a child who is anxious about separation, the better.
The picture sow above of Mr 4 drawing the love connection on his father’s hand as daddy was out a little more than he usually is for work. Instead of tears, pacing and worry, our Mr 4 shouted out LOVE CONNECTION! Then he ran and got a coloured marker and drew his own version of a heart on daddy’s hand. He quickly drew one on his own hand and then started sending love, to which daddy did an impressive impersonation of someone electrified!
Daddy was then able to leave the house to the sounds of laughter, rather than tears.
Now that’s winning!
I’d love to hear if your family has had difficulty with separation and what strategies you’ve used to help cope.