Hi, I'm Dr. Beth Onufrak!

Separation anxiety holding you hostage?

Published about 1 year ago • 2 min read


3 Ways to Help Separation Anxiety

Hi there!

Your little one (or one who's "getting too big for this") is clinging to you for dear life.

Soaked with tears, your shirt is stuck to your neck. Fist-pulled and wrinkled, your shirt tells the tale of their desperation.

Saying "You'll be fine, it'll be okay" only supercharges the tears. Have you been here?

Panic and refusal may appear the same in different kids with separation anxiety. But the reasons may be worlds apart.

Separation anxiety can happen as late as 10 years old!

Each course of therapy is unique. There is no single magic formula.

So here are 3 principles for handling separation anxiety on your own.

Pushing doesn't help.

You may be really tempted to give a BIG push -- to move your child over the discomfort line.

I've found that pushing too soon, hard or fast usually backfires. Badly.

Anxiety is an "inside fight" within the child. It's a battle between her yearning to go and her panic to leave you.

If adults push too hard, the battle shifts to you versus them.

Though it's hard to believe, a gentle, reassuring approach works faster than pushing.

Gentle works better than pushing.

Your feelings are contagious.

Your child's anxiety can spike your own. Their panic seeps into you, and all you want to do is take 'em home!

It can be so hard to keep your tears in, your hands from shaking.

If you appear fearful, they may conclude: "Whoa, I better not go in, look how it scared my parent is!"

Separation anxiety times call for acting skills.

A calm exterior helps the situation.

No, it is not easy to control your emotions -- but trying to is a key element of success. Some mantras may help:

  • This will not last forever ...
  • This problem will get better ...
  • These tough days will pass.
Your calm can lead the way to their calm.

Childs choice: distance and pace

Courage grows in bits, in small steps.

A child who feels in charge of distance and time away from you will build courage sooner.

Instead of all the way into the classroom --

  • Just try 4 steps in (or 3? 5?). Then come back to me (distance from you).
  • Just step in and count to 3 (or 4?). And come back to me (time away from you).
  • Take a peek and find something red ... what do you see? (distance + time away)

Let your child pick the distance away, and number of seconds away.

Then try it again.

This is a dance of safety and courage, back and forth, over and over.

Courage grows in small bits. Let your child choose how far and how long to be away from you.

These ideas are based on the child's point of view. Moms & dads who complete my ChildSightTools® course change their whole approach to parenting.

I'm looking for parents who are ready to abandon what doesn't work, "get" their child and enjoy a more peaceful family life. Who do you know?

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

And remember ... Looking through your child's eyes changes everything.


Dr. Beth

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Hi, I'm Dr. Beth Onufrak!

I'm a child psychologist and parent educator. My ChildSightTools® courses help parents see through kids eyes. Sign up for my weekly Newsletter!

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