Soothing Separation Anxiety in Toddlers
We've all seen it. The toddler weeping as if her little heart will break as she clings to her mother's pant leg, absolutely determined not to let Mom out of her sight.
Meanwhile, teacher, grandparent, or sitter stand by, desperately trying to coax the little Cling-On away with noise making toys, promises of ice cream for dinner and visions of "what FUN we're going to have." Mom then does one of two things. She stops, gathers her little one in her arms, and coos and cuddles her, calming her down and thus giving in completely.
You can already see the wheels turning ("Well, I'll call Janice and just reschedule lunch for sometime next week. She'll understand."). Or, flushing red with embarrassment at the attention the predicament is causing, she extracts her leg from her little one and flees in a panic, determined to get as far away as possible as quickly as possible.
So which reaction is the RIGHT one? Neither.
By giving in and staying with your little one, you are inadvertently teaching her to cry and throw a tantrum until she gets what she wants. In this case, Mommy to stay.
By beating a quick retreat, you are causing temporary separations to seem like abandonment in the eyes of your toddler. This only leads to a drastic increase in fear and panic whenever you must be apart.
Okay know it all, you're saying, so what am I SUPPOSED to do? How would YOU handle the situation when you have banana now smeared all over your new silk pants, you're cruising on three hours sleep,one cup of coffee, and you're not even sure you remembered to rinse the shampoo out of your hair in the shower this morning?
The best way to handle these necessary separations involves a few basic steps:
Let's also all understand that there are going to be good days and bad days. There WILL be days where you walk out of the room to the sound of your precious, adorable little child screaming in a violent rage of protest. And that sound is going to rip your heart out with a jagged knife and shred your stomach to bits with a rusty fork. You may very well get to your car and find yourself beating the steering wheel mercilessly and smearing your mascara around to your ear. AND THAT'S OKAY. It's natural to feel upset about being separated from your child, just as it is natural for them to feel the same being separated from you.
Just remember that what you're working toward is establishing your children's independence and confidence in themselves. Your children are no longer simply an extension of you. They are their own amazing little individuals, and they need the chance to understand that.
by Jennifer Remeta