Separation without the anxiety


24th Jul 2016

We all know it breaks our hearts to leave our little ones crying as they get used to a new environment without us, though it’s important not to beat yourself up about it. Separation anxiety is a perfect normal process every child goes through. Read on to hear more on how to handle the tears (yours and theirs) from our expert Ms Karen Kelly, Global Head, Early Years Curriculum and Training at Safari Kid.

Did you know that you shouldn’t try to avoid bouts of separation anxiety by sneaking away when your child isn’t looking?

As tempting as this may seem, given their reaction of separation from you, but experts agree that this is more likely to develop or create more anxiety in the long run. Instead, say a loving but quick goodbye, even if your child cries or screams. Do not worry, the crying will subside usually within a few minutes.

By establishing a consistent pattern of attentive goodbyes and reunions, you can build your child’s confidence in you and your relationship.

Confidence and learning are inevitably interlinked to face up to the various challenges that children will face in their world. In an early years nursery environment children will meet new people, discover new ways of playing, face new activities and if each of these is met and coped with successfully they will develop with a lot more confidence. With each success they encounter comes a boost in self-esteem and self-respect. Children will feel happy about themselves and as a valued member of the group.

How do confidence and social independence typically develop?

Babies are, of course, totally dependent on the caregiver but can begin to develop a social awareness of others within the close proximity of a main caregiver.

The one year old is usually very dependent on a main caregiver and may find it difficult to separate unless the situation is very familiar to them. Visiting regularly to ‘accompanied classes’ where new experiences and learning opportunities are offered in a nurturing environment helps young children begin to understand that there are ‘others’ they can interact with in their surroundings. This also begins to broaden their experiences of positive interactions between their caregiver and others outside of their home environment.

From 18 months or so children may explore more independently with a main caregiver present or in another room nearby. Gradual short separations can begin at these times. As children begin to go though a separation process they will often build an attachment to a particular person, this could be a teacher or sometimes even another child.

Supporting Positive Separations or Transitions

•    Start with short separation times, children need to learn you will return, this builds trust and understanding

•    Once these shorter separations are successful extend the lengths of separation times

•    Stay calm – displaying your own anxieties can give mixed messages which children sense very quickly

•    Consistency is important in the ‘goodbye.’ If you give a quick kiss and a wave goodbye then make sure that the routine is followed, even when in a rush! 

•    A comforter from home often helps such as a favourite toy or blanket. Comforters such as these often may have the familiar scents form home as well as the positive feelings associated with them

•    For children who are preverbal it is essential to share information about how your child expresses themselves and, of course, how they like to be comforted

•    If it is a transition into a new school or class then taking photographs of the entrance area, class door, class teacher and the playground area are all useful in sharing discussions about those changes

It is important to remember that it is ‘usual’ and 'healthy’ for children to be upset and or cry during the initial separation process, children need time to process the different ‘attachments’ with new people in new environments. Don’t worry, you will get there – good luck!

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