Yes, you’ve probably all heard and experienced separation anxiety for children and even animals. It can be an intensely difficult time when children usually between the ages of six months and three years but children do generally grow out of it. However, are you aware of separation anxiety in parents? While many parents will say how much they miss their child, how they feel guilty leaving them at nursery or with a babysitter; in reality, parental separation anxiety is much more than missing your child.
What is parental separation anxiety?
Parents can often struggle with intense and overwhelming feelings concerning the potential and real absence of their children or loved ones. This anxiety can develop during pregnancy, postnatal or at any point during your child’s childhood. It’s quite common for the feelings to be triggered when your child starts nursery, starts school or goes on a school trip and spends time away from the family home and the anxiety may present itself as low mood, anger or catastrophic thinking. However, there are plenty of ways to manage this anxiety.
Recognize Your Feelings
Being aware of your feelings and understanding why they are occurring is really helpful there is no point in denying your feelings as this won’t help you, and you will not get the support you need.
Talk To Other People
Talking to other people and especially other parents will help you with your own feeling. It’s nice to know that you’re not alone and that other parents are experiencing or have experienced this too. Talking to them will provide you with support and a release, and they may help you by offering you their ideas on what worked for them.
Keep Yourself Busy
Just like missing a partner, you need to keep your mind occupied. Plan activities and schedule them before your child has gone away. That way you’ll know you have things to look forward to and won’t leave you trying to find things to do once the anxiety hits. Plan to meet up with friends or do something that makes you happy and something you can’t always do when your kids are around. Turn it into a positive, maybe even use the time to enjoy something new or to learn something new at your local college. Remember how important it is to fill your days, and don’t allow yourself to mope around the house. Get moving!
There must be loads of things you don’t have time to do or aren’t able to do with the kids around. Spend some time with your spouse, enjoy a nice long bath with no interruptions, redecorate, go away somewhere yourself. There’s no doubt a list of projects you want to get done or places you want to go to but just don’t have the opportunity, consider this time the golden opportunity.
Don’t make your child feel guilty
It’s highly likely that your child will pick up on some of your nervousness, so really try to maintain a positive attitude. Parental separation anxiety can often transfer to children and can contribute to their anxiety, which will in turn trouble you and lead to a cycle of guilt. Do your best to be enthusiastic and upbeat about your child’s plans. You don’t want your child to feel apologetic or worried about leaving, so make sure that you express only positive thoughts.
Exchange Little Gifts With Your Child
Give your child something that you made for them or a small souvenir that has meaning for you both. It’s nice for them to have something, a comfort or a reminder for a while they are away, and the likelihood is if you do that, they will give you something too. Or you could pop a little note in their bag which they will read when they get there or in their lunch box – you will have the comfort of knowing that you’ve made them smile and they know you’re thinking about them.
Don’t worry about the way you are feeling, it is normal and to be expected. Just like with the children, it will pass and the more they go away, and you see that they’re alright and enjoying themselves the easier it will be for you to enjoy your time without them. The important thing is to encourage your children to go out there and be independent individuals, no matter how you’re feeling inside. Ultimately, they will thank you for it, and you’ll be extremely proud of them.