Picture this, you are 4 months into the school year. Your littlest is in their first year of kindergarten. It has been an ongoing struggle to help them regulate their emotions in the after-school crash. BUT, they are also flourishing in the classroom and you are so proud to see how much they have grown.
Smash back to reality, you’re starting a new job that will have you out of the house and although your children are gone all day the thought of you not just being home waiting for their return has caused some serious anxiety for your kindergartener. All of those adjustments and tools you set up to help cope with the after-school burnout have been thrown out the window, as your child experiences separation anxiety.
If you are like me, you may not even realize that is what’s happening right away, you may become frustrated because your child just won’t go to bed, wonder what they have been watching on TV that is the cause of the nightmares your child is now experiencing. There is a multitude of behavioural things that pop up and as a parent, you might be tempted to call this a garden-variety tantrum, but it’s actually a textbook case of separation anxiety. It isn’t fun for you or your child to deal with, but it plays a key role in a child’s mental development. The key to navigating this difficult stage in your child’s life is knowing what causes it and how to anticipate the behaviours that often accompany it.
As it turns out, separation anxiety is an unfortunate by-product of developing object permanence. Your child can understand that mommy and daddy haven’t vanished from existence because they’ve left the room, but now that they can connect their needs to those who can fulfill them, they want those people around as much as possible. Separation anxiety can take hold as they start to wonder when (and if) their parents are coming back to care for them.
In our case, my son is adapting to our new schedule and therefore emotionally wants to spend every moment knowing I am close by.
I dive into this a little bit more on an episode of The Mom Files (give it a listen).
Separation anxiety can be scary for a child and absolutely heartbreaking for a parent to endure. Try to remember, you can rest easy knowing that it’s usually a phase that all children have to navigate – and there will come a time, long after the demand for cuddles that you’ll remember fondly once your kiddo is older and wants their time away from you!