Separation Anxiety; A Trial in Patience and Perseverance



The Road to Independence; Picture Credit Anna Halkiotis

It all started when my independent, never look back, self confident four year old began to cry hysterically when being dropped off at school. Mind you this is mid year and she has loved every second of school up until this point. When asking her what was wrong; why she didn’t want to go to school, she just said she wanted to be home. Nothing had happened to upset her, there was no clear cut problem to solve.  But regardless of wether there was a problem to solve she made it evident she DID
NOT want to go to school!

This lasted several weeks and I cannot say with certainty that we are in the clear, but it’s shocked me and I was beside myself as to what I could do to help. Every time I dropped her off she would get extremely upset. It was heart wrenching and felt like I was abandoning my daughter. However moments after I left, her teacher assured me, she was better than fine, she was happy and actively engaged. When I picked her up she would be playing with her friends and would even hide from me so she could stay longer. This assured me she was just fine and it was a passing fluke but at the next drop off she would go through the same antics. It was difficult for me to drop her off and leave her but I knew I needed to be strong, that it would do her no good to allow her to stay home.  By allowing our children to stay home in these situations, we’re only reinforcing this avoidance behavior. Many times doing the right thing is the hardest thing to do.

Looking for guidance I asked her teachers for advice. The teachers at BCAP are wonderfully caring and have a wholistic philosophy when it comes to education so I knew I could trust their expertise. They assured me that this was a phase that many children go through, often brought on by change in their home or a growth spurt. I immediately knew my daughter’s issues were coming from the fact that I am pregnant. She has become extremely attached to both me and her new sibling.

However, knowing the cause of her separation anxiety did not solve all issues. Because she is four, yes I can talk to her, but over all it is something she must work out for herself. The key, her teacher shared, is to express that she is in a caring and safe environment and to emphasize the positives. Another way to subdued attachment issues is not to linger on them. My husband and I tend to talk and analyze an issue to death but with this situation we didn’t bring it up (to her that is). We asked how her day was, talked about the positives and whatever else she wanted to share and ended it with that. If she mentioned not wanting to go to school we always spoke about the fun she has there, the projects she was working on, her friends, and teachers.

It took three excruciatingly long weeks for my daughter to work her separation anxiety out during which I held my breath the whole time she was at school. As I said, I am not sure we are completely over our issue but it has improved and she is back to loving school and the independence it gives her. Some experts even say that is a healthy and normal way to express their love and developmentally appropriate attachment for their family.

Below are two useful articles on separation anxiety and how to help our children through their issues.

Separation Anxiety in Young Children

Developmental milestone: Separation and independence (ages 3 and 4)

Written By Nicole Rowley


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