Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

I have memories of my mom going to work when I was a child and wanting her to stay home with me. I also have memories of being brought to school and clinging to my yaya, wanting her to stay with me. Even now, when my husband has to work on a weekend, I feel sad when leaves. So when I have to leave for work or my husband and I leave our little girl to watch a movie and go for date night, and she cries for us to stay, I completely understand. I don’t call it “arte” (acting), because I know that separation anxiety is very real.


It is perfectly natural for children to want their parent to stay with them all the time. But life isn’t that way. Parents need to work, have some alone time, have other obligations. Separation anxiety strikes when a baby goes through the first year of his life with his parents constantly by his side. And yet it also strikes when a child has been abandoned and suddenly acquires a “parent” who he wishes would always be by his side.

I am blessed to have a flexible schedule. Because I am a freelance child photographer (and a healer on Tuesdays), work doesn’t always take me away from home. I shoot for a few hours one day and spend the next few days editing the photos at home, with my daughter climbing my back and putting things on my hair. even when she was only less than a year old, except when I had a photo shoot, she came with me wherever I went because I was breastfeeding her. I took her to my healing sessions and classes, the grocery, the bank, to lunches with friends, to mass. But as she grew older, I felt that I could begin leaving her either at home or at her grandma’s house to allow me more mobility in my errands and to give me a little bit of me-time.

Leaving her was the hardest thing to do. It involved a lot of crying, clinging, and screams of “Mommy, I want to go with you!” It also cause me a lot of anxiety as I had gotten used to having her with me 24/7. Nowadays, leaving her is so much easier. But then, I tried a lot of different things to appease her and did a lot of research on what was the best thing to do to avoid the water works.

1. First off, instead of saying, “bye”, say, “I’ll see you later!” To them, “good bye” sounds like “I’ll never see you again.” Rather, “I’ll see you later” lets them know that you are coming back and that you will not be gone for a very long period of time.

2. Never sneak out. I always made sure that she saw me leave and come back, even if that meant lots of crying. When a parent sneaks off to leave while the child is asleep, and the child awakens without his parent there, it arouses distrust. So the next time you try to leave, he won’t believe you when you say that you are coming back. Let the child see you leave the room or the house, even if that means lots of crying, and let him know when you are back.

3. Don’t spend so much time trying to appease the child because he won’t calm down for as long as you are there, but still need to leave. This is something I learned from my husband. You have to quickly leave. After telling my daughter, “I’ll see you later. I promise mommy will come back when you wake up from your nap”, I give her a kiss and quickly walk out the door. She may cry and cry while she watches you go, but I learned from her grandma one afternoon, that after I close the door, she stops crying and starts playing with her toys. They do forgive and forget.

4. Tell your child about what you need to do. Being a photographer requires me to be on site for an event for a number of hours at a time at varying times of the day. So I tell my daughter, “Mommy has to to go take pictures of other people and work. You know how I take pictures of you so you can remember yourself as a baby? Other babies need pictures too.” This helps her to understand what I do for a living, and it shows her that after I work, I will go home to be with her after.

While the clinginess and anxiety still happens once in a while, we have both gotten better at saying our see-you-laters to each other. I learned that it is healthy for my little girl and me to be apart for a few hours of the day because that just makes reuniting in the evenings pure bliss.

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