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Separation Anxiety

As a mum, I remember the first time I left my eldest for a few hours. I was worried that she wouldn’t cope without me and that she would burst into tears and cry uncontrollably for the entire time I was gone. Well she cried, but not for long and was fine! I think I was the one with the issue. With my second child, I would relish having a trip to the supermarket on my own and didn’t give leaving him a second thought.

The reality is we all get worried or anxious about things and sometimes as parents we can unconsciously ‘feed’ our children’s anxiety. An example might be watching our child climb a tree and we are telling them be careful, don’t climb too high because you might fall and break a leg. Saying this to a child who can become anxious or worried easily ‘feeds’ their anxiety. This can also happen if they are going to a friend’s place for the first time for a play or even if you are leaving them at a birthday party. Children can sometimes be made to feel they cannot take risks without having mum or dad around. This is where we need to encourage our children.

Remind them for example if they are at a birthday party, who to ask if they need something. Introduce them to the parent and tell them you are leaving. Show your child where the bathroom is if they need it. Reassure them that they are ok and they will have a great time with their friends. Give them a time you will be back to pick them up and make sure you are there on time. The last thing you need is to be late and faced with a distraught child. Remember, if you are calm, then you have a better chance of your child being calm, reassured and enjoying themselves rather than the meerkat child whose eyes are darting around looking for you.

School camps even excursions can be overwhelming for both students and parents. If your child is going to experience their first school camp yet has never been away from you for a sleep over, of course they are going to be worried and not know what to expect. You will also be worried because you are sending them into the unknown. Children will sense your anxiety, so remember to remain positive.

Ways to combat these concerns include you speaking to the teacher prior to school camp. Not the week before, months before so that you can ask questions and assist your child in becoming excited about camp, particularly if they are anxious. If your child hasn’t had a sleep over anywhere, then now is the time to start. You could perhaps start with a longer play date for example or even one that involves your child staying for dinner. Another great start is having them stay at a cousin’s or grandparent’s house etc. This experience is also good for parents! The more experiences they have of being away, the easier it is. Children need to know they can cope without ‘helicopter parenting’. As parents, we need to trust our children are in good hands. This is why staying with family members or close friends is a good start. As a teacher who has attended many school camps over the years, I can guarantee we are on duty 24/7. We don’t get a lot of sleep but have a lot of fun.

So next time you think twice about letting your child have an all -day play date, sleep over or even attending school camp, remember, they will be ok. They will discover a whole new inner strength within themselves along with a sense of accomplishment knowing they can survive without holding your hand! You may also experience the same feelings and realise you have done a positive thing for your child.

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