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Friday, October 24, 2014
Salt and Pepper
Handling separation anxiety
Dr. Shoshanah Findling and Pepper Robinson nassaueditor@liherald.com
Dr. Shoshanah Findling and Pepper Robinson

We cannot deeply love anything without becoming vulnerable to loss. And we cannot become separate people, responsible people, connected people, reflective people without some losing and leaving and letting go. — Judith Voist

As we get ready for the new school year and say goodbye to summer it is important to remember that we go through many separations throughout our lives. Learning how to tolerate and survive loss and separation is an important life skill. Whether your child is going to preschool or leaving for college, these leaving events present challenges and opportunities for practice. When a child begins school it is hard to tell who is more scared: parent or the youngster!

The parent’s thoughts may include: “How are they going to survive without me?”
“They don’t need me anymore.” “I’m being replaced.” “I’m not going to be there and will miss those special moments” and/or “I want to be the one to have fun, sing, and play with … not be tired, overwhelmed or scrambling to make dinner.”

What may be going through the child’s mind? “This is scary. What am I doing here? Will you ever come back?” “Why are you leaving me here with these people?”
“Don’t you love me anymore?” “If you’re home anyway, why are you sending me away?”
Any separation can provoke a sense of loss on both sides. This is to be expected. Here are some tips to make the transition easier for everyone in the family:

1. There is no room for ambivalence in your decision. Children read their parents and can sense your fear and will act on that. Stay calm and smile. (You can fall apart when you get to the car.)

2. Prepare children gradually. Do not spring the change on them. Let children get familiar with new caregiver and or classroom.

3. Do not sneak out or distract children when leaving. It is helpful to talk about the separation and validate their feelings. You can even rehearse the good-bye through role playing. Your child needs time and practice to trust in your return. Saying goodbye acknowledges their feelings and shows that you believe in their ability to cope.

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