Almost all children go through the stage of individuation when they learn to be separated from their parents. Most toddlers quickly overcome separation anxiety and get used to the situation. However, sometimes a child may have problems because of the intense emotional pain and fear he experiences when being separated from a caregiver. Scientists note that this is usually due to the parents’ emotional immaturity – the mother or father may have weak self-identification and find it difficult to perceive themselves separately from the child (Stone et al., 2015). Another reason may is the parents’ experience of intensive separation anxiety in their childhood.
Parents react differently to a child’s tears when they separate. Some try not to pay attention and expect the situation to change on its own. Others tell their little ones that there is no reason to worry about it because mom or dad will come back. It is a widespread reaction because parents are afraid to harm their children by discussing fears or are not ready to open up emotionally to the child.
However, experts explain that this tactic is wrong. To do the right thing, the adult should reassure and explain to the child their emotions, make a farewell plan, and remind the child that the parent loves them (Day, 2020). To be more precise, the parent needs to tell the child that it is normal to be upset, and the parent understands the reason – perhaps the child is afraid that while the parent is absent, something bad will happen. It is imperative to acknowledge that the child is afraid and upset and talk to them about it. A farewell plan can include a ritual and a visual timetable for when the parent leaves and arrives. Further, the parent can express love by leaving the child some sentimental gift or reading a book with him, such as “The String of Love.”
For an educator or a primary school teacher, or a child psychologist, it is important to understand that separation anxiety is an integral part of one of the natural stages of a child’s development – the stage of separation-individuation. Overcoming the fear and sadness associated with separation, the child becomes an independent person in a large, open, and interesting world. Most children quickly stop experiencing separation stress, but if this is not the case, the caregiver can support the parent by explaining how to behave with the child in such a situation.
Stone, L. L., Otten, R., Soenens, B., Engels, R. C., & Janssens, J. M. (2015). Relations between parental and child separation anxiety: The role of dependency-oriented psychological control. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(11), 3192-3199.
Day, N. (2020). How to help your child overcome Separation Anxiety. Web.