6 Tricks To Help Your Kid Deal With Separation Anxiety

Ain't no lie — bye, bye, bye.

Originally Published: 
baby looking out the window
flickr / Donnie Ray Jones

The last time you went through any major separation anxiety, you were trying to make an egg white omelet because your doctor said your cholesterol was “too high.” But for your toddler, being apart from you is also no yolk.

The fact is, they’re probably going to freak out the first few times you walk out the door. This could happen if you’re going on a date (aka, drinking with your wife to remind you when you were free). Or, more likely, it could happen at the the daycare once work calls you back into service. But, take heart, fella. There are ways you can make this easier for everyone.

Why They Cry

Change is tough for anyone, and being upset about it is a completely normal part of childhood development. When the change includes not seeing a favorite parent for a while (you, obvs.) the freak out can get downright epic. Understand this commotion isn’t indicative of some mental weakness in your kid. In fact it might come and go a couple of times until the hit they ripe old age of 4.

As they become toddlers, they become more conscious about how their behavior affects your behavior. So, a good old tantrum to try to keep you around when you’re taking off is worth a shot. Rest assured that they might be tearful and shouty for a bit after you go, but it’s unlikely you’ll come back to them this way.

How You Can Help

You are probably going to have to deal with a couple of crying jags before sorting it all out. However, you can take a couple concrete steps to turn your kid into an old pro at saying goodbye.

Set Up A Trial Run

This pro tip is particularly useful if you’ll be leaving your kid at daycare. If you have a chance, hang at the daycare a couple of times for an hour or 2, just to get them into the idea that it’s a safe place. When the time comes, and make like Elvis and leave the building, they’ll be comfortable with the environment.

Make A Goodbye Ritual

A goodbye ritual should be fun and snappy. You can make it a special groovy high 5. Or, a series of kisses. Or, if you insist on it being the Kid N’ Play dance, that’s fine, too. Just make the part when you actually take off brief and happy. Kids can smell sadness. And fear.

One more note: Don’t sneak out like you’re some crappy David Copperfield. It’s a bad illusion and might freak your kid out even more when they realize you’re gone.

Give Them A Job

It turns out that a toddler can get as lost in a job as you do putting coversheets on all those TPS reports. See if you can hook them up with a job at daycare will give them a bit of control over their environment after they arrive. It could be something like greeting all the kids as they come in. This will also be great as a post-retirement fallback career in 74 years.

Hash It Out

You might not think that you can have a mature conversation with a toddler, but they’re picking up way more than you think they are. Talk about what’s going to happen before it goes down. Let them know that you will absolutely be back. And if you want to reinforce the tale you’re telling, slip in a topical book during reading time. Something like Llama Llama Misses Momma will do just fine.

Leave Them With Comfort

Before the leaving occurs, sit down with your kid and build a magical charm that’ll connect you while you’re away. It could be a decorated string they can wear on their wrist. It can even be a picture book they can take out and flip through if they get too spooked. It could be an Star Trek communicator. Just be creative.

Have A Routine

If you’re in the habit of reading parenting articles (by the way, welcome!), you should know by now that routine is essential to your sanity. That’s because toddlers love a routine. It helps them get oriented in an otherwise cold and chaotic world. If you want extra parenting points, pull together a picture chart that has all the steps of heading to daycare and everything that comes after. That way there won’t be any surprises.

The Final Analysis

If you give them all your love when you’re with them, and show up when you’re supposed to, you kid will have the trust they need to wave goodbye. Sure, your heart may still hurt a little, but that’s partly to do with that cholesterol. Guess the yolks on you, now.

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