Separation Anxiety and Children Adapting to Changes

Separation Anxiety and Children Adapting to Changes

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  1. Seven mother hens hover over their chicks, and the little birds huddle together in a circle on the classroom’s reading and sharing rug. So, maybe these were human mothers and perhaps pre-schoolers, but the visual was the same. These moms were afraid to let their fledglings scamper off.

    Children adapt to changes more easily when they feel safe and secure. It’s likely more difficult when mom is so nervous she waits an extra half hour or more before she’s comfortable enough to leave. Sometimes it’s not the child who needs reassurance that everything is going to be okay; it’s the mommy who needs some consoling.

    When there’s a new teacher on the scene or a new classroom open for new adventures, parents get anxious about the change. Children are expected to feel some reservations about the changes. However, implementing preparation before separation from the familiar can make all the difference.

    If there is an anticipated change or something that will alter your child’s normal routine, you should inform him or her in advance. Repeatedly discussing both the fears and exciting possibilities will ease little minds and hopefully big ones too. If Mrs. Weinraub is retiring at the end of the school year and won’t be the summer program teacher, then you have to discuss this impending change. Talk about all the favorite activities shared with Mrs. Weinraub. Talk about all the things your child loves about her.

    Ask your child questions that will prompt answers highlighting what will stay the same.

    For example: Q: “Where does Mrs. Weinraub sit when she’s in the classroom?”

    A: “In her chair at her desk or in her chair on the reading and sharing rug.”

    Q: “Where do you think your new teacher will sit?”

    A: “In her chair at her desk or in her chair on the reading and sharing rug.”


    Q: “What are some things you and your classmates do every day no matter what?”

    A: “Wash our hands before we eat.” “Have recess.” “Have naptime.”

    Talking about what will remain the same will lessen some of the impact of what will change. It’s okay to miss who or what is gone, but it’s also important to understand that we adapt to differences and must accept that life moves forward.

    Sure, we all want our kids to be safe, but here are ways to work behind the scenes to put grown minds at ease. Ask questions, run background checks, speak to references etc. The things that shouldn’t be done are a lot of hovering and smothering. “Don’t prolong the parting. It makes it much harder.” (Brazelton, 1992, p. 370). If you really have concerns about your child’s safety, don’t send them to anyone who poses doubts in your mind.

    By half-heartedly allowing your child to attend a school or day care or other place where child care is provided, you are creating space for some serious separation anxiety issues to arise. “Children are remarkably resilient in an environment that respects and cares about them.” (Brazelton, 1992, p. 370).

    Your child should feel safe wherever you have decided to place him or her for care when you’re not around. You should feel comfortable with the child care provider you’ve chosen. If not, it’s time for another change. Remember, prepare your child for what’s coming.


    Brazelton, M.D. (1992). The Essential Reference: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development. Perseus Books: Reading, Massachusetts

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