A mom who is about to return to work, will not necessarily dread the thought of going back to the workforce or getting back into the 9 to 5 drill – most moms are more likely to dread the separation from their child, more than anything! Toddlers are not like infants – they are fully aware of the surroundings and they will quickly realize that their primary caregiver has left the building. Separation anxiety (for both mom and child) is perfectly normal and it can be overcome.
How to overcome separation anxiety for toddlers
- Depending on the age of the child, explain to them as best as possible that mom will be absent for a while but will be back. Luckily the anxiety is short-lived and once the toddler realizes that mom is true to her words and will return – the once heartbroken toddler eases into routine and actually enjoys the time spent at crÃ¨che or playschool.
- Give the anxious toddler an item that reminds them of you! This could be a small object that they can keep in their pocket, or a special teddy! Give the toddler the responsibility of caring for the object until you return. A few hours away from mom for a troubled toddlers can seems like days – but if they are armed with mom’s special object (such as a bangle, necklace, etc) – the child will feel better equipped to deal with the separation.
- Don’t lie! Be honest with the toddler. If they are going to playschool or a crÃ¨che, tell them exactly when you will fetch them (obviously toddlers can’t tell times) but say -Mom will be fetch you after lunch .
- Make it an adventure! If they are about to start at a new playschool, be sure to tell the child in advance about all the fun things they can look forward to, such as the new friends, or fun activities. Try to buy a new outfit or a new lunchbox for the special day. If the child is eager to start, they anxiety over the separation will be reduced.
For moms, the separation anxiety can often be just as bad as their toddler’s apprehension, however since moms are adults – they realize that separation will eventually occur and they need to take life’s changes in their stride.
Overcoming the anxiety for mom
- It is perfectly natural to feel anxious about leaving your child with a stranger. Moms are nurturers and caregivers by nature and in addition to the anxiety caused by the separation, moms deal with immense guilt when returning to work. The best way to deal with separation issues for moms is to accept that separation is inevitable and a child who is confident and secure will thrive in an environment such as a playschool or crÃ¨che.
- The best way for a mom to cope with the stress of separation is to concentrate on the time she has with her child or children, rather than the time she does not spend with them. Using the weekends to spend quality time with kids – doing fun things together or just enjoying each other’s company will reduce the separation anxiety for both kids and moms.
Each and every day millions of South African moms leave their children in the capable hands of childminders or grandparents or they send their toddlers off to playschool or crÃ¨che – if you are a working mom, let go of the guilt and join the women who successfully combine a career with a family. The anxiety will pass with time and mom and child will grow and thrive without each other. The role of a mom is to teach their kids to feel secure enough to let go!
– Kathy Baron