Separate and Secure: helping young children with separation anxiety

I couldn’t leave, and I couldn’t go far.

My oldest child is a “slow-to-warm-up”, “resistant-to-change” kind of kid. This made her transition from staying home with mom to preschool a very challenging one. We had 5-6 months of LONG minutes at the door of her preschool classroom, negotiating, crying, screaming, kicking, the whole nine yards. She exhibited just about every trait of separation anxiety ever researched. And there I was, teacher, parent educator, child development “expert”, and mommy feeling frustrated, emotionally tired, and a bit confused. I thought I was prepared for this phase, I had read and studied all of the literature. I had watched other parents navigate this phase. So why was I struggling? Why was I crying in the parking lot after each episode? Why was I second guessing my decisions, reactions, and ability as a parent. Where had I gone wrong?

Looking back, I can see now with perfect clarity that my “mommy” role was overriding my training. I was responding to this phase with my heart rather than my background knowledge. And that was perfectly alright. I just needed a little reminder, some tips, and some encouragement from other parents that would push me over the hump and give me the security that my child was searching for.

There are many things that parents can do to help their child move through the phase of development that is marked by separation anxiety. This becomes especially important if children are going to be at a daycare or preschool on a regular basis. And there are important life skills that parents can help their child develop during this normal phase of development. Check out this weeks QwikSheet, brought to you by, for tips on preparing your child for separation of various kinds.

It’s normal for children to be anxious when a parent or caregiver disappears, especially when the child is very young, or the separation unexpected. This two-page downloadable explains how adults can prepare children for separation by creating trust, describing what each family member will do when apart, and the many ways children can comfort themselves if anxious. Ideal for preparing an infant or toddler for child care, and an older child for preschool, kindergarten or even a parent’s deployment.