by Melissa Jaramillo
At some point you're going to either have your child in daycare or starting school. This means that you'll have to drop your wee one off, and in time, learn how to separate from you.
Not all children experience separation anxiety. If they do, it usually only lasts for a few months.
Most children start to understand the concept that you'll come back and that actually soothes them when you're out of their sight.
In some instances, this condition can last longer than a few months or even leak into the toddler years. No parent enjoys hearing their child crying or shouting out, "Don't leave me!" Regardless, this challenge can seem like it will last forever.
Separation anxiety doesn't have to leave you feeling guilty, drained and not knowing what to do to ease the transitions. These five parent-tested methods and games are clever, doable and should make this next step on the journey an easier one.
1. Play 'peek-a-boo' to gently introduce concepts of separation and reunion. This game is geared more toward the wee ones. By now, your child has a firm understanding of separation but hasn't figured out that you'll return. Games like peek-a-boo may help your baby understand that things go away and return. If your child likes the game, try to quickly leave the room while singing or talking until you're out of sight but can still be heard. Don't do too much at once, your child still has to accept your not being around.
2. This game is called, "A Kiss to Keep" and is for the preschooler set. It's based on the book "The Kissing Hand." Chester Raccoon doesn't want to go to school -- he wants to stay home with his mom. Mom assures him that everything will be fine, and that she's got a secret way to make school as cozy as home. She takes her son's hand and kisses the middle of his palm. Whenever he feels lonely, all he has to do is press his hand to his cheek to feel his mother's kiss. You can do the same with your son or daughter. Give them that comfort and assurance that you're with them during the day with this simple gesture.
3. Create a secret picture of your family. This method can be used for any age. We've heard about this item from a number of our parents at pregnancy.org. You can laminate a picture of your family with the words, "I love you" or any other message on it. Attach the picture to the bottom of a plastic box, a special spot in the backpack or as something they can pull out and look at any time or in their special cubby space. This is a discreet way for the kids to look for support whenever they need it.
4. "The Goodbye Game." This clever game is a homemade gem. Create 10 cards that have pictures of "kissie" lips on them combined with a mom hugging a child. Next to each picture put a number -- that number tells the child how many kisses and hugs they'll get from mom or dad. Every morning, shuffle the cards and have your child pick a card. Exchange the hugs and kisses before heading to school. We bet your little one will be busting with love instead of missing you!
5. The "change the subject" method. Distraction can be your friend. If you bring your kids to school, try getting them to count how many school busses or a particular kind of car they see along the way. This way, you can help squish the "I don't want to go to school" conversation and instead practice valuable math skills. Most kids love counting games and even pretending their the driver of the busses or cars. Another distraction game is called the "Alphabet Game." It sounds as simple as the name. Find things along the way that start with that letter. For instance tell your kids, "Car starts with "c" -- how many other c words or objects can you find before we reach school?" We bet your kids won't even think about you disappearing after drop-off.
What helped ease your child? What game or method can you recommend?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.