Bradi - posted on 07/21/2010 ( 11 moms have responded )
My son has gone to sleep away camp for the summer (he is 10yrs. old) and I miss him terribly! So, I reached out to MyWorkButterfly.com's resident Psychotherapist for some advice... hope it helps you too!
Q: What's the best way to manage separation anxiety as a parent and as a child? (ie: sleep away camp experience, childcare, new school)
A: Separation anxiety is a common thing for kids and for parents. Not only can a child experience separation anxiety, but a parent can as well in regards to leaving their child either in camp, school, day care, etc. First I will focus on the parent. It is critical to recognize that a parents' separation anxiety can be transferred (or projected) onto a child. It is very common for children to experience separation anxiety when the parent does. Children feel our emotions and pick up on them. SO, as a parent it is important to do the best you can to keep it in check while trying: not to be too dramatic, to give big hugs, a kiss and let them know you love them and send them on their way. Then, walk away and cry your eyes out. It is OK to show a tear or two, but leave the hysterics to the privacy of your car or somewhere else your kids can't see you. If it is your child that has separation anxiety, the rule is to think of drop-off like taking off a bandaid, nice and quick. The longer you delay, the longer your child will get upset and/or cling to you. As hard as it may be, give yourself the two/three minute rule and don't stay any longer than that, no matter what. Even if you have to have your child pulled off of you crying, I promise you, the quicker you walk away the quicker they will get over it. Evidence shows, even the worst cases, a child typically will only cry for 5 minutes and then they go on to have a great day. There are always exceptions to the rule but separation anxiety is usually a phase and it is important to recognize that this will pass. Remember, leaving your child crying, as hard as that is, truly just enforces confidence in them and shows them that they can do it, that mommy will always be back and that they can survive with out you. Yes, mom, I said survive with out you. So, if there are any moms out there who are scared of their kids surviving without them, then the separation anxiety is on YOU, not them.