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“Separation Anxiety” is the technical term for the experience of many children and parents when children are separated from their parents or caretaker. It’s normal and a part of healthy child development, but it sure can be stressful!
“Separation anxiety is a sign that your child has a close attachment to you and does not want to leave a safe, familiar place,” said (name & title), _____ County Health Department. “Children who are 7 to 18 months old feel it most strongly, however, children as old as 5 or 6 may still be fearful about being separated from their parents.”
_____ said parents and caretakers encounter separation anxiety most often when they leave their child in a child care situation for the first time or move their child to a new child-care center. “There are things parents can do to make the adjustment a little smoother,” s/he noted.
_____ said parents should talk about the new center a few days (or one to two weeks for preschoolers) before the child will attend. “Visit the center with your child and meet the teacher. Talk with your child about his or her feelings of being away from you and meeting new friends. Let him or her know you understand those feelings.”
_____ suggested that when the day arrives to begin at the new center, let your child take a comfort item, like a stuffed toy or pacifier, along with a picture of your family. Allow plenty of time to get ready so you are not stressed and so your child will feel less stressed. Talk about what you will do together that evening.
“Arrive early at the center so you will have time to ease your child into activities before you must leave,” _____ said. “Allow your child to be sad at saying goodbye. Give your child something to do as you leave; for example, ask your child to shut the door for you or wave to you while in the teacher’s arms. Say goodbye with a hug and kiss and a smile, even if you feel like crying yourself. Your child needs to feel you are confident in the choice to leave. After you have said goodbye, then leave, even if your child is upset. Going back to comfort will only make separations more difficult.”
At the end of the day when you pick up your child, share your positive feelings about seeing your child again. “Help your child make the transition from center to home by following some routines, like putting away toys, getting the backpack ready and saying goodbye to friends,” _____ said.
_____ offered these important reminders for parents:
For more information about helping your child say “good”-bye, call or visit the _____ County Health Department. (Additional information can be added here on child development visits, well child clinics, parenting classes, etc.)
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