Separation Anxiety- Every Parent’s Guilt Trip

“I want my mom!  I want you NOW!”

As I deal with my own daughter’s separation anxiety while I’m at work, I think of the countless parents who are faced with this dilemma each day.  That heartbreak of parting defies logic, for they are not reasonable beings.  They only know how they feel at that exact moment, and they must express the pain and anger that comes with the desertion we force upon them.  We are terrible, terrible people…cue knife into the gut.  

Here’s the thing, though.  We aren’t terrible people.  Even though it hurts to see our little ones upset, it’s a necessary part of life to develop those coping skills that will eventually make them productive people in society.  Most childcare professionals will tell you that the crocodile tears stop flowing 2 to 5 minutes after you walk away.  Children are creatures of the present.  They are perfectly capable of forgetting about us parents and moving on to the next distraction, but only after they punish us first.  I often have to remind myself the only reason my daughter treats me so “badly” is because she loves me so much.

The process of separating from your child during drop off can be smooth or rocky.  Regardless of which reaction your child has, there is comfort in knowing your child will be loved and safe while they are away from you.  One of the questions I have my clients consider is: what does the ideal day look like for my child?  Reality may not match your vision exactly, but it certainly helps to decipher what is important to you when considering preschool and daycare programs.  It is okay to be very clear on what experiences you would like your child to have when you are apart.  While many programs have similar daily routines (i.e. snack, circle time, outdoor play, lunch, nap, centers), getting specific about your desires and needs for your child is eye opening.  If it is important to you that your child be engaged in weather-related play (rainy and snowy days), it’s critical to make sure you select a program that has a suitable outdoor space and a willing staff to make this happen.  If you know your child must eat frequently throughout the day, you may want a program that offers an a.m. and p.m. snack time in addition to lunch.

No two facilities are alike.  Make a list of your “must haves”, just like you would when shopping for a house or a car.  You will likely have to make compromises here and there, but it’s your child and your money.  Shouldn’t she or he be in the best home away from home as possible while you are taking care of business?  At least while the abandonment guilt trip is wearing off, you will take comfort in knowing they have dropped the drama and moved on to the fun day ahead of them you carefully selected.

Now, to recover from my own guilt trip for working on the weekend.  Even though my daughter would have me believe I left her needlessly with a sitter for the day, I know full well she went to the zoo and had the home spa experience I planned for her.  Life is not so horrible.