"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
1 Peter 5:7Last week I shared with you about my adult daughter's struggle with same sex attraction (July 2, 2012). This week we are going to look back at younger kids and discuss the dance between independence and dependence. I will continue to speak about her struggle and our response as God leads.
Do you have a Cling-on or a Velcro Kid? Various developmental stages and situations bring on the hanger-on-er behavior. Separation anxiety may come from both external and internal places. The child who has just gone through a big change in his life circumstances, feels insecure and unsafe. That child typically holds Mom or Dad captive with a death grip. Developmentally, the desire for independence and dependence are at odds with each other. This struggle often occurs in the toddler years, when the child is figuring out he is a separate being from Mom. The young or even older child with anxiety due to temporary separation can be debilitating for the parent and the child. Parents may base their decisions on the child's emotional state. Thoughts like, "I can't leave my child" prevail. Ultimately the parent feels trapped while the child's suspicions are confirmed. "I'm only safe with my parent."
So how does a parent reinforce the child's ability to trust other caretakers? Answer: by being consistent and strong. The child's emotions don't get to dictate the parents coming and going (unless there is a concern about with whom the child is being left). As hard as it is to leave a sobbing child with a white knuckle grip, do it. While peeling back the chubby little fingers, reassure your child you will return after an event like lunch or nap (make sure you follow through to build trust). Tell the child he is in capable and loving hands with the person he is being left with. Let the child know that this new caregiver has the responsibility for watching him and that you trust this person.
My coauthor, Becky Danielson, used a nontoxic marker and draw an xo on her boy's hand. That gave her son a physical remembrance of her love for him a and a reminder of her promise to return.
What ideas could you share with another parent struggling with a child who has separation anxiety?