Making Daily Separations Easier for your Youngster and for YOU!

Children and parents benefit from each good bye. If saying goodbye is a struggle for you and your child, here is some advice!

Think about it, from the moment we are born, we have to deal with separation. Right after birth, we are swept away from mom and dad to be cleaned up. Each time we closed our eyes, it meant our parents were out of sight. Then came the grocery trips, babysitters, childcare, pre-school, kindergarten, overnights with grandparents, sleepovers and eventually college!

Good byes are a part of life and with each parting, children learn important lessons about how to move from being totally dependent to managing independence. Learning to separate is a critical life skill that your child needs to mature and grow with confidence from one stage to the next.

“Separation is one of the major developmental hurdles that every human being faces, and children are learning every time they do it,” says Janet Brown McCraken, MEd, an early childhood consultant in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Your daily comings and goings offer important coping skills. Your child learns that he/she can still be okay and have fun during your absence. When you return this offers your child proof of your devotion increases self-worth. Your daily “reunions” teach your child that the world is fairly predictable and doesn’t have to be so fearful of the unknown. So, through separation, your child learns stronger self-confidence in order to venture out and form relationships with others.

Remember — children react to separation differently. Some don’t seem to be bothered at all, while other shed tears through kindergarten! Both reactions are perfectly normal. Children need our guidance to help them learn to cope and feel good about becoming independent.

Good-bye Tips:

From day one, always use the word “good bye.” Develop a ritual so your child is a part of the routine good bye (i.e. kiss on forehead, a hug, tickling their hand, etc.)

Never sneak away. You want your child to trust you. Even though good byes are tough, it’s better for both of you to deal with it and move on.

New situations create anxiety for all of us — not just children! So, be especially aware of the overwhelming feelings children can have about a new daycare or school. Helping them become oriented to the new place and letting them know who’s who can provide them tremendous help and relief.
Is it YOU that’s finding it hard to say good-bye?!

We all hate to leave our loved ones, however, parents who show their anxiety can negatively affect their children’s ability to adjust according to Ellen Hock, Ph.D., a professor at Ohio State University in the Department of Family Relations & Human Development.

Hock suggests the following strategies to help you and your child feel more secure:

Don’t linger at the door. The more you prolong your departure or say things like “Are you OK?” the child begins to feel that perhaps something around them must not be safe — because why else would Mom or Dad not leave?

Say good-bye, complete you ritual and go! Prolonged good-byes can make children very uneasy.

Do call in during your time away. A good caregiver, babysitter, grandparent, will sense your anxiety and reassure you that your child is doing just fine.

Do keep a photo of your child nearby. It’s a comfort to see your child’s face when you are apart.

Don’t feel guilty about enjoying your work or activities away from your child. According to Hock, “the healthiest parent-child relationship is when mom/dad’s needs are also being met.” Your happiness and confidence are infectious!

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