Separation anxiety: It’s not just for kids

We expect tears from kids when they start day care or school, but what happens when you – the parent – are the one with separation anxiety?

The first day of school, kindergarten or day care is a big day in every child’s life. But while we expect kids to become upset when separated from their mum or dad, parents can also feel emotional or anxious.

The impact of separation

Even if your child seems excited about starting kindergarten or school, you might feel anxious or upset for a number of reasons.

You might worry about whether your child will be able to cope being separated from you, or if they will get the same level of care and attention that you give them? What if little Amy falls over and grazes her knee? Will she get a big kiss and cuddle to soothe her?

Your emotions can also play a part. You might be overwhelmed by the feeling of missing your child. Or if you’re a mum returning to work, you might feel guilty or that you’re being judged by others for being a working mum.

Sad mother after dropping kids off

Coping with separation

If you think you and your child might feel anxious being separated from one and other, try leaving them for a few hours with a trusted friend or family member. This will help you both to get used to the idea of being apart, and will build your sense of security.

Get to know your child’s new carers. They may not do things exactly the same way that you would, but they might surprise you with new ways of doing things.

If you’re used to being a full-time parent and you’re struggling to fill your time while your child is in care or at school, try taking up a new group activity like yoga or volunteering. It’ll help you stay busy and meet new people.

If you feel anxious or guilty because you’re returning to work, focus on making the most of the time you can spend with your child. Aim for quantity over quality.
Finally, don’t be afraid to lean on the people around you. Talk to other parents who have been through similar experiences – they’ll understand if you need to express how much you’re missing your child, and they may be able to give you advice about how they got through the transition.

Being separated from your child for the first time can be stressful and upsetting for you both, but those feelings will usually ease in time.
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