Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Separation Anxiety

So, I wrote about The Bean's issues with perfectionism, now time to talk about Sprout's Separation Anxiety.

Sprout has always been attached to me at the hip. I get it. I've been home with her essentially since birth. I'm her safe place. When she started school back in the fall I was really proud of how well she transitioned. I chalked it up to her being well adjusted and feeling safe and secure. If I'm remembering correctly we had a bit of a set back just before the winter holidays, but whatever happened then, let me tell you, it's nothing compared to what's been going on the past month or so.

I have literally been having to peel her off of me in the mornings. She has been anywhere from slightly teary to nearly hysterical. It's completley frustrating and exhausting. I KNOW that minutes after I leave she calms down. I know that she is well-liked and well taken care of at school. I do not know why this has suddenly started or how to get her past it.

As frustrating as it is for me, I know for her it is real. I know she truly does not want me to leave her in the mornings. I've run the gamut with my reactions, from quickly peeling her off of me and leaving to lingering around until she's settled, reassuring her that I'll be back at the end of the day and can be reached if there are any problems, and then saying low-key goodbye before heading out. I feel better handling things the second way, but I'm also wary of overstepping. The school does not like parents lingering around.

I'm guess just not sure what to do. I know it's a phase. I know either way she will be okay. But I also want her to know that I wouldn't ignore her "needs."

What would you do?


  1. I can tell you what I'd do because I've been there. Jackson had this kind of drop off even in half of grade 1. He was far better in kindergarten but grade 1 was difficult. He has anxiety. He likes to be home. He doesn't like being "bossed around" all day. For him it went away with time. I took the first approach. Talked about it before, talked about why he was upset (What will happen tomorrow at school? You'll go to class, stand for Oh Canada, sit on the floor and listen to the teacher, etc. Just ran through the day.) We explained that he had to go to school and we had to work and it is the law for kids to go to school. Made sure that he knew there was no way to get around going. He'd fake being sick with coughing, saying his tummy felt sick and even fake puking. We'd say, "I'm sure you are feeling awful but you are not sick enough to stay home." We tried talking to the school and teacher to brainstorm ways to make it better. Angele went to a psychologist to talk about ways to help him. Because he is smart, she said just be straight forward and answer honestly. I think consistency is key and not making too much of their reaction. Talk about it after school and say, "You need to go to school so how can we make drop off better?" Maybe see if she would feel better having something special in her pocket or if she'd like a reward chart for having an excellent drop off (we did this with Riley--30 days of good drop offs = trip to Toys R Us for a prize.) I'm sorry. It's rough. It will pass.

  2. I went through this with Teagan for most of last year. The first month was rough, then it normalized, then the separation anxiety came back with a vengeance towards the end of JK. We talked about it a lot. In the mornings, we would talk through drop off and how it would go. We talked about how she could dig deep in her tummy and find "brave T". This actually worked quite well for her. We would also talk about something we could do after school. This usually put a smile on her face.

    I never wanted to dismiss her feelings, but at the same time, I started having anxiety over drop offs! Like you, I didn't want to linger and always knew that he was ok and happy once I left.

    While I'm not keen on bribes, I've used them before and found it effective at getting over the hump. Maybe one week of good drop offs gets her a special outing with you? Does she need one on one time?

  3. Stacy and Ashliegh have both provided excellent tips that I concur with. I have worked with preschoolers and quite familiar with this. Similarly, I know you are an educator as well as parent and that makes things harder. It also makes it easier as you do know that children almost always calm after the parent leaves. Does not alleviate the anxiety felt by either of you but nonetheless comforting. I would be straightforward and talk it out with her and provide gentle but firm reminders of what is to come and what is expected. You do an amazing job of "hearing" them and in the end that is what she will remember.