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SEPARATION ANXIETY
 
From the moment the baby is born, and the umbilical cord  is   cut, life  is  full of separation  for the baby. With each phase of developmental growth of the baby, a further separation comes in.

Stages when separation comes in :
1.   Taking solid foods leads to weaning the baby from mothers breast.
2.

Crawling and walking creates a lesser need of the mother carrying the baby.

3. further separation is also due to the toddler going to school.
4. the child sleeping in a separate bed from the parents.
5. arrival of a second sibling in the family.
6.

when one or both the parents leave him.

The separation anxiety phase begins in the last quarter of of the 1st year, and frequently lasts into the earlier months of the 2nd year. Separation anxiety never touches some toddlers, but some may develop a little later closer to the 2nd birthday and suffer the anxiety well into the 3rd year or later.


The problem of separation may be quite severe in a child :

1. who has never been cared for by anyone but his parents, and has had a little exposure to other adults.
2.

separation anxiety is more exaggerated in a child, who is experiencing other stress in life e.g. moving, a new child care situation, or the arrival of a new sibling.

3. child who is shy, reticent experiences separation anxiety in a exaggerated manner.
4. When parents leave the child overnight for long periods experiences separation in a greater way.


The following tips may help both you and your toddler cope with separation better.

1. Understand the anxiety of the child. React to it with understanding, patience and confidence. Reassure your child by words such as -

" I know you don't want me to leave, but I will be back soon. I love you".
Never be in a hurry and say annoyingly words like -
" You silly boy - you make me feel so mad when you cling like that".
2.

Don't take the anxiety too seriously. Though your toddler's plead for you can be heart rending - avoid joining in the melodrama and instead stay calm, sympathetic, unmoved by the child's histronics.
Tell him that you love him, but don't add that I will miss you.

3. Make your toddler feel secure when you are around. Giving lots of  love and attention when you are together, makes a child feel better about separation. A child learns faster when you are sensitive to his feelings. Don't say to yourself - " He needs to learn and he is going to learn the hard way".
4. Start with the short separation like disappear behind a door and going into another room and gradually work up to leaving the house for shorter periods. This helps the child to view the separation as temporary.
5. Don't try to be sneaky to avoid a scene like slipping out of the  house when your toddler is not looking or fast asleep. It will only make him more guarded and insecure, the next time you try to leave.
6. Check your own anxieties. Younger children pick up the parental anxieties like a radar. Any reluctance on your part of leaving the toddler will be reflected in your body language and tone of the voice. This will only resurface the child's fear of separation. Always leave the toddler with a confident smile on your face.
7. Do not let your self be controlled by your child's hysterical cries. One of the difficult lessons you want your child to learn is that he can't get everything by crying. Help your toddler start learning the lesson now by taking your leave as planned, even if he protests vigorously.

Help In Learning To Let Go
(Help In The Problem Of Separation)

1. Developing the habit in your child of sleeping in a separate room:

This will help the parents to regulate the child's sleeping hours, by putting the child to bed at fixed time everyday. Create a bedtime routine for the child, by tucking the child to bed, telling a bedtime story, kissing the child goodnight and just leave the room. There should be no looking back. The baby may not be pleased, may scream for half an hour and then hopefully fall asleep through sheer exhaustion.
This can be very difficult for both the parent and the child, as the parents usually get very jittery with the babies cries and keeping the baby away from their watchful eyes. Parents however, will have to harden their hearts and in their zeal to discipline the child will have to ignore the cries of the baby. However, they have to check the baby from time to time taking care as not to wake up the baby, just to put their minds to rest.
2.

Making your toddler getting used to short-time separations e.g. like shopping or going out for movies.

As the toddler is approaching the end of 1st year, there is a constant push and pull between the child's awareness of her dependence on her parents and the early bids for independence. The parents have to maintain a delicate balance between making sure that the child feels secure and putting her feet on to the road to independence. To make your toddler feel comfortable with your short-time separations like shopping or outing, be sure that you get ready in advance, and spend time together with your baby before you separate. Avoid rushing frantically to the last minute, as this could transmit a sense of anxiety in your child and upset your toddler. Get your toddler busy and engage him in some activity he likes. Also when leaving, do not make him dramatic farewells and keep the exit casual. As briefly as possible explain to your toddler that you are going out and will be back soon. Using phrases like " See you soon alligator" reassures your toddler when you leave the house.

3. Separation anxiety at Preschool

The daily transition from home to school is rather difficult in many toddlers. Your toddlers resistance should not be considered as a sign of his dislike for school. As long as your protests are short-lived and your toddler seems to enjoy the time he spends in school, there is nothing to worry about. As soon as the child gets acclimatized to the new routine and school setting, then there will be a decrease in his  clinginess and crying. This process takes longer for some children
than the others, and some continue having troublesome home school transition for a year or two into their school careers. You could help in the following ways :

(i) Make sure that the child has enough time before school to wakeup. Be sure that he has his morning milk and a good breakfast before leaving for school. A tired and hungry child will cling to his parents more.

(ii) Make sure that he is not hurried out of the house without a couple of good warm hugs and some friendly conversation.

(iii) If the school allows, let him bring a piece of his home along
e.g. a small toy he is fond of or a favourite blanket. If the school wont allow that, then assure him, that his teddy bear will wait for him in the car, until the school is over.

(iv) Separating from you will be easier for the toddler if you give him something of yours for the day like a handkerchief or an old wallet or even a kiss of lipstick on his hand.

(v) Never admonish your child on the way to school.Keep him in a lighter mood discussing what he would like to do after he returns from school, or ask him the name of his teacher or friends or the nursery rhymes he loves to sing.

(vi) Put on a happy face, when you are leaving the child at the class door. Do not show any trace of anxiety or restlessness, which may make him tense. Do not feel guilty, overly sympathetic. If  you waiver at all, he will play to your feelings and feel even worse.

(vii) Arrive a little early to school, and linger on in his classroom and ask him about his classroom toys or the nice pictures hanging in the classroom and compliment them. Make the classroom talk short and sweet, for if you linger longer, he may start clinging to you.

(viii) Leave him with a farewell, and reassure him that you will pick him up as soon as school gets over.

(ix) Pick him up on time. This will relieve him of the daily worry that you might not show up.
4. Separation due to the arrival of a sibling.

As soon as one knows that a few sibling is to arrive, the mother must  start to loosen her aprin strings in advance. This will help the child to be less dependant on the mother and the pangs of separation will be felt less when the time consuming new baby arrives. It is very important that the mother does not give the impression to the older child, that the new baby has stolen her mother. The mother must ensure that the older child is not feeling left out, or the older child will develop a jealousy attitude which results in sibling rivalry. Certain ways can help to imagine the impact of the new   arrival in family.

(a) Prepare the child that he will soon be getting his own brother or sister, and the good times that they can have together.

(b) Train the child to be more independent, in picking up his toys and doing other small events. Try to wean or toilet train your baby much in advance of the arrival of the new baby. The child may view this as a sign of rejection in favour of the new baby.

(c) As soon as the new baby is born, ensure that you start the sibling relation on the right note. It is a good idea for the older child to be taken to the hospital by a family member to help bring the baby home. The mother must ensure that before she gives attention to the  new born, she also pampers, hugs, kisses the older child, so that he still feels wanted. In this way, the older child will not feel that, as if all the attention is focussed on the new baby.

(d) The mother must continue to spend some quality time with the older child, when the new baby sleeps.

(e) Involve the older child in doing small events for the new baby -
like picking up a nappy, or keeping the bottle aside. This way the older child will feel that he is equally important to his mother.


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