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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Preventing Separation Anxiety

The first couple of times you leave your child with a sitter or drop her off at a day-care center will probably be a very emotional experience for you. If you can treat these separations matter-of-factly, your child will learn to separate rather easily, making the whole process much less draining for both of you. Below are some additional suggestions to help you and your child deal with separation.

  • Do not discuss the separation before it occurs. Doing so will not help and it may make separating more difficult.
  • Plan ahead so that you can separate quickly. Have all of your child's things together in one bag or her toys out in one place so that you won't drag out the separation.
  • When it comes time to do so, leave as quickly and as matter-of-factly as possible.
  • If separating is hard for you, set up artificial opportunities to practice separating. For example, arrange to drop your child off at a friend's or relative's house several additional times each week until it becomes easier for you.
  • When you pick your child up, don't be overly emotional. It's OK to act glad to see her, but don't start crying and hugging her excessively--to do so only shows your child how hard the separation was for you.
  • Generally the way children handle separation is a direct reflection of how their parents handle it. Do well and your child will do much better.

Written by E. Christophersen, Ph.D., author of "Beyond Discipline: Parenting That Lasts a Lifetime."
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems