PP#6 Separation Anxiety - Berwick Lodge Primary School

Parent’s Patch
Separation Anxiety
As a mum, I remember the first time I left my eldest for a few hours. I was worried that she wouldn’t cope
without me and that she would burst into tears and cry uncontrollably for the entire time I was gone. Well she
cried, but not for long and was fine! I think I was the one with the issue. With my second child, I would relish
having a trip to the supermarket on my own and didn’t give leaving him a second thought.
The reality is we all get worried or anxious about things and sometimes as parents we can unconsciously
‘feed’ our children’s anxiety. An example might be watching our child climb a tree and we are telling them be
careful, don’t climb too high because you might fall and break a leg. Saying this to a child who can become
anxious or worried easily ‘feeds’ their anxiety. This can also happen if they are going to a friend’s place for
the first time for a play or even if you are leaving them at a birthday party. Children can sometimes be made to
feel they cannot take risks without having mum or dad around. This is where we need to encourage our
children. Remind them for example if they are at a birthday party, who to ask if they need something.
Introduce them to the parent and tell them you are leaving. Show your child where the bathroom is if they
need it. Reassure them that they are ok and they will have a great time with their friends. Give them a time
you will be back to pick them up and make sure you are there on time. The last thing you need is to be late
and faced with a distraught child. Remember, if you are calm, then you have a better chance of your child
being calm, reassured and enjoying themselves rather than the meerkat child whose eyes are darting around
looking for you.
School camps even excursions can be overwhelming for both students and parents. If your child is going to
experience their first school camp yet has never been away from you for a sleep over, of course they are going
to be worried and not know what to expect. You will also be worried because you are sending them into the
unknown. Children will sense your anxiety, so remember to remain positive. Ways to combat these concerns
include you speaking to the teacher prior to school camp. Not the week before, months before so that you can
ask questions and assist your child in becoming excited about camp, particularly if they are anxious. If your
child hasn’t had a sleep over anywhere, then now is the time to start. You could perhaps start with a longer
play date for example or even one that involves your child staying for dinner. Another great start is having
them stay at a cousin’s or grandparent’s house etc. This experience is also good for parents! The more
experiences they have of being away, the easier it is. Children need to know they can cope without ‘helicopter
parenting’. As parents, we need to trust our children are in good hands. This is why staying with family
members or close friends is a good start. As a teacher who has attended many school camps over the years, I
can guarantee we are on duty 24/7. We don’t get a lot of sleep but have a lot of fun.
So next time you think twice about letting your child have an all -day play date, sleep over or even attending
school camp, remember, they will be ok. They will discover a whole new inner strength within themselves
along with a sense of accomplishment knowing they can survive without holding your hand! You may also
experience the same feelings and realise you have done a positive thing for your child.
Fiona Froelich