Making Goodbyes Easier

Remember, separation anxiety is a normal stage of development. You won’t be able to head off every leg-cling or tearful goodbye, but you can help do things to strengthen confidence and security about your return.

  • Be calm and consistent. Create a goodbye ritual during which you say a pleasant, loving, and firm goodbye. Stay calm and show confidence in your child. Reassure him or her that you’ll be back – and explain how long it will be until you return using concepts your child will understand, such as after story time.  Give him or her your full attention when you say goodbye, and when you say you’re leaving, mean it; coming back will only make things worse.  Don’t stall or repeat goodbyes; that will just make your child more anxious and clingy.
  • Follow through on promises. It’s important to make sure that you return when you have promised to return. This is critical, and there can be no exceptions. This is the only way your child will develop the confidence that he or she can make it through this time.
  • Listen to your child’s feelings. Let your child know that you understand his / her feelings and reassure him / her that you’ll return. A statement such as “I know you’re felling sad. I’ll miss you too” is more helpful than telling a child that he’s making a fuss over nothing.

A Tip from the Experts

Did you know… that you shouldn’t try to avoid bouts of separation anxiety by sneaking away when you child isn’t looking? This may be tempting, given your child’s reaction to separating from you, but experts agree that this practice is likely to produce even more anxiety. Instead, say a loving but quick good-bye, even if your child cries and screams. Your child’s crying will usually subside within a few minutes. By establishing a consistent pattern of attentive good-byes and happy reunions, you can build your child’s confidence in you and your relationship.